November 12th, 2002


I'm the stranger here you know

Monday was weird and uncomfortable. For one thing it was just ludicrously busy, something that I am growing to hate more and more as the days drip by and I realize that the amount of time I have to do ANYTHING, from homework to journal writing, can be meausred better in minutes than in hours. For another thing it involved some pretty naked fallings away of the line between teacher and student, with my TA for American Politics showing up to discussion section and announcing that she didn't want to teach it and that she was finding herself procrastinating way too much on all her work and not getting her papers written. Since we are writing a paper for HER in less than two weeks I found this just an odd comment for her to be making and one that showed a definite disrespect for the line of idealism that differentiates the objective and rationally motivated teacher from the more human students. Whether the fading of that line is a good thing or not I'm not sure. I think it is in that it's really nothing more than the acceptance of reality, but on the other hand it does harm to the objectivist structures of school which are so critical to the masquerade of Academia.

I also went to a talk given by a nobel prize winner as part of a lecture series in my father's honor. I wanted to sneak in and be invisible, a fly on the wall, but unfortunatly the guy who had set up the talk saw me and introduced me to the guy who was giving it. That guy, after hearing that I was indeed my father's son, remarked "So I guess that means you have to carry on the tradition, right?" I almost shouted "Thanks, thanks for re-affirming my feelings of inadequacy and putting even more pressure on me than I already have. Wouldn't you prefer just to kick me in the scrotum? It'd be quicker and probably more satisfying for you." But that's not the sort of thing that you say to a British Nobel Prize winner who'se come to give a talk in your deceased father's honor (or at least I am fairly sure it isn't, Ms. Manners doesn't cover this situation adequatly in her books) so instead I just gave a horrified laugh, said "I hope not!", and hightailed it into the auditorium.

The talk itself was pretty interesting, on the ethical AND scientific advantages of free access to scientific information and how it relates specifically to the human genome project, although there was a touchy moment when, in condemning the drug companies, the guy mentioned anti-depressants and how fewer people should be on them because they are so overprescribed. From what I understand part of what drove my dad to suicide was his getting off his medication due to precicely this type of thinking. It was a touchy moment for me. In fact during the whole lecture I was somewhat uncomfortable, my ankle cracking as it does under stress which annoyed the people near me but could not really be helped.

The lecture also brought some other stuff to the forefront of my mind, chief among them being my lack of direction and the joys of community. See one of the thing that attracts a lot of people towards science is the idea of joining a community that is supportive, directed, and consists mostly of intelligent socially awkward people like themselves.

I did feel a yearning for that sense of being part of something bigger than yourself, something that can accept you and use you for a greater purpose, during the talk and I only wish there was some science that captured my imagination enough to drive me towards that thing. I do think that my lack of life experience after the death of my father has contributed to the fact that I don't have such an attraction to a particular field but I also feel like I'm in some way beyond the critical period regarding that sort of thing. Like I'm just too advanced in age and lifestage to spend time playing in the dirt and figuring out whether the worms or the rocks are more fascinating.

Not to mention that even after 8.5 years I still haven't figured out how to interact with the god damned world without my father as an intermediary. It's exceedingly uncomfortable to not have bridged that gap yet but I know that it is the case. I just can't get my head around how to fix it.

A life of science might really be nice but it does require a powerful motivation that I don't have, even regarding psychology..although I should try another lab position next semester to make sure of that. It might partially be that I am just feel underwhelmed with what is asked of us in school.

Another weird experience occured during CC when the professor first announced that she shouted so much that she had damaged her vocal cords and was going to need an operation to fix her voice. It was sort of a surreal thing for her to be saying and somewhat amusing considering how excitable and passionate she is about just about everything. It seems like it should belong in a surrealist novel, the professor who speaks so loudly that she damages her voice and is forced to whisper passionatly about various subjects. Truth CAN be stranger than fiction.

Then later in the class she had a throwaway line about "It's like how men won the war with women and enslaved them, justifying it later by calling them weak. If women had won the war things would have been different" which just blew me away. Partially because although I talk about the gender war a bunch I don't actually MEAN it and I don't think it's possible to mean it. Men and women are too tightly interlinked to ever truly go to war. We cannot be seperated cleanly into two sides. Also because it was a strikingly non-idealistic statement of the situation. I mean instead of a narrative of oppression this was a narrative of conflict and victory. She wasn't condemning men for cultural "enslavement" of women but merely stating that someone had to win and that side would of course take the spoils of war. An incredibly non-feminist view of the feminist narrative of male domination. Finally it struck me as odd because I have no idea how women COULD have hoped to win. I mean leaving aside bullshit half-serious arguments about gender superiority, in terms of brute conflict it seems to me that men have an overwhelming advantage for a variety of reasons. It was just an odd thing for her to say.

After class I stood on the street and talked about Columbia to a guy named Michael for half an hour in one of those conversations where neither party is all that interested but neither wants to end it for fear of seeming rude or unfriendly.

Finally last night my OTHER aunt called to tell me how nice my phone call to my first Aunt about my uncle's death had been. In fact I botched the phone call but they did appreciate it seeing as I am generally uninterested in communicating with family. I found it odd that the phone call was meaningful though since nobody seemed that upset when I called. Anyway it was just a weird cap to a werid day.

I have a lot of work to do and still no motivation. I'm very confused about my future and considering joining the military after I'm done with college in order to sort things out. It's a rather drastic step but I'm not sure what else to do. At least there I could get some direction, even if it will be "Over that hill and into enemy fire."
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