Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters
socratic

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How come you're always such a fussy young man?

My psychologist (I still have one, I'm a Jewish New Yorker whose father committed suicide and while I'm not supposed to admit being in therapy I think it's more important that to be honest than to be thought of as stable) said to me that I was trying to justify my existence, and that I couldn't. Not because my existence was unjustified but because it's not the sort of thing that can be justified. Nobody is responsible for his or her own existence and how can you justify what you're not responsible for. It's like trying to justify the law of conservation of energy. It doesn't make any sense to try. That makes sense. He said that trying to justify one's existence is common among males (and I'll reduce it to American males.) That makes sense too. We're taught from a young age that we are engines of America's economic success, that Welfare is for losers and users, and that asking for help is tantamount to admitting defeat. Now I'm not trying to run out that old "Oh look, men are oppressed too, wah wah look at all the expectations" bullshit, because I don't believe it. What's the alternative? Get in touch with your feelings and don't take ownership of your life or actions? Please.

Anyway, it's impossible to justify your existence but you do have to justify your being sustained in that state. Back in olden times this was pretty easy. If you were faster than the Bison and stronger than the bear, then your foodstuffs were justified. If not...well...read up about what happened to Nanook, the title character of the famous documentary, a year after its release. (Yes I know I'm exaggerating the case greatly. Humans were generally social animals and while there were some solo males out there for the most part the tribe provided for both the young and the elderly. I'm making a point, not demonstrating my anthropological knowledge so leave me alone!)

Things get much more complicated in society. No longer are you one, or even a calculable number of steps from that fresh hot meat you're putting in your mouth (we're talking animal flesh here, for all you gutter minded types.) How do you judge your sustainability then? Well in 2000's America it pretty much comes down to one measure, the one that induces bankers to treat you nicely when they type your name into the computer. Is that fair? Of course not. It's true for most people though. I think this is part of the reason why we have so many moral failings, especially among the rich. See if all you have to judge yourself by is income, income is all you'll care about and immorality seems like a much smaller barrier than it does when one views oneself through a variety of lenses. Jesus (who has been making WAY too many appearances in this journal) said "man cannot live by bread alone." Well that goes for stocks, bonds, and commodities as well. Those things aren't life, they are tools for living, but when they are the way one justifies one's existence they become the meaning of life. It used to be that there were a variety of facets to American life. Financial, religious, familial, patriotic. Now they can all be basically boiled down into one. Trent Reznor spoke for a whole society, not just a generation, when he sang "God money I'll do anything for you."

Greenbacks aren't that far removed from the Golden Idol's of Aaron's time. Ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and the answer is generally "rich."

I have tried to escape from this trap, because it really is one. Talk about your pitfalls, a swollen bank account offers a hollow life covered over in nothing thicker than paper. The metaphor is perfect. I haven't managed to fully get away from it, though, and I can't imagine being satisfied if I was artistically successful but financially ruined. It's not that I reject the idea intellectually, it's that I can't actually IMAGINE what a life of artistic success devoid of commerciality would be like. I can imagine myself poor and failed. I can imagine myself successful and wealthy. The other permutations and the in-betweens are basically blank slates, even though that's where most lives fall and likely where mine will as well.

I can't help but feel like not earning money or working towards earning money is a character flaw. Today on the way to class I saw she-who-used-to-have-weird-and-varied-hyphenated-references-in-this-journal-but-hasn't-been-mentioned-for-oh-about-a-year-I'd-say-more-or-less and I almost turned around. I couldn't figure it out, since she is firmly in the past and it was the sort of thing that a reasonable person wouldn't have even reacted to. It was just a visceral reaction, and the reason is that I'm embarrassed by myself. Not just because of the weight, although that's part of it, I would have liked to make progress, but also because I feel embarrassed not to have moved forward in my 'career,' in the process of making money. It's not something that makes sense on an intellectual level; it's not something I'd agree with if somebody else said it to me, it's just an unwanted emotion.

That's one of the reasons I really want to do some work on some films this summer. Being paid doesn't matter; at least it would be resume padding. Of course there are also rational reasons, it's not just giving in to this culturally instilled bullshit, I want to learn about the craft and I want to see whether it's really for me.

Class today was okay. We saw "Sergeant York," which was a really entertaining film, if propagandistic. I had to sit through "A film professor's guide to early American military history," which was flat out painful given my knowledge from Poli-Sci classes and my hatred of simplification. It wasn't the Prof's fault; he only had a certain amount of time, and explaining that the Spanish American war didn't constitute a violation of the Monroe Doctrine because of our belief in hemispheric superiority and the fact that we were willing to engage in imperialistic military action when it suited our purposes. Don't get me started on the Platt Amendment, you crazy kids.

The movie itself was interesting in the way that it portrayed York's justification for existence. He started out without one and was hedonistic (in a 1940's sanitized Hollywood hero way) then started living for God, then a woman, then land, then for his country and his army. He layered each of these on one to another and built a meaning for his life. Of course it was Jingoistic and fake, but it had a good message, embodied in the fact that York refuses to take money in exchange for his story because he doesn't want to profit from killing. He rejects the money on principle. The fact that this film was based on a true story makes it a bit less schmaltzy.

After the film I walked off campus with a German classmate and asked him about the German in the film. He said that one of the actors was clearly a native born German speaker and the other who had German lines was clearly a Hollywood actor who'd been given a script and not told how to pronounce his lines correctly. I couldn't have told you which was which if he hadn't said. It's funny how different people can perceive two things completely differently. I knew the German was probably crappy but had no way of perceiving whether this was the case or not. He didn't have to pay attention, picked it up effortlessly. Kind of makes you rethink all those Japanese films with TERRIBLE Engrish in them. To the Japanese it probably seems quite serviceable.

I have a lot of work to do for Thursday but that shouldn't be a problem. I wanted an interesting summer, eh?

P.S. The tuition exemption office is being a bit, cool, towards me. That's fine though. I've become a patient person. Go me.
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