Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Who is Meursault?

Reflecting back on the story as a whole, I realized that Meursault is actually a pretty ambiguous character. Meursault sounds more like a surname than a first name, and if this is true no first name is ever given. Research on the origin of "Meursault" only brings up a very boring Wikipedia page about a very boring commune in eastern France, and a type of wine. His name has no depth, and no apparent greater or hidden meaning.

Going even further, we never read anything about what Meursault looks like. We aren't given a particular age or any sense of how he dresses. The only physical attribute that's ever mentioned is Marie and his "brown bodies" (35) laying on his bed, and that was pretty darn general. And, considering the plot is set in Africa, that wasn't a hard attribute to guess anyway. And while his thoughts throughout the book can be interpreted, he never exclusively says much about his emotions, even though the story is first person, until the very end of the book. The only sensations we see him experience (for the most part) are purely physical; the hot sun when he shot the man, the uncomfortable heat every time a tense moment occurs in the story. We only see truly intense emotion emerge when he is put under the extremely high stress of his criminal trial, and even then his responses feel limited.

What we can interpret about his character from the events in the story is that he is honest, laid-back, unsentimental, atheistic, lacks a well defined moral code, and has a self proclaimed indifference to the world around him. While these are all solid personality traits, why aren't his physical attributes and deeper emotional responses more expanded upon in the story?

I think Meursault is meant to be the personification of existentialism as a whole, and without a face or an age of his own, he can easily become the physical embodiment of the philosophy as Camus defines it. Meursault does not follow the standards of society; he doesn't experience remorse for his reactions, he doesn't see a reason to follow religion, and he doesn't see any reasons to lie about his feelings, whether it's to protect others or even himself. Meursault is meant to be seen as an identity, not an individual, a canvas that Camus can paint his existentialist ideas on, and an individual without physical attributes that might restrict who Meursault can be identified with or interpreted as within that philosophy.

And following that same theme, he's also the embodiment of a rebel, a person operating outside the walls of society's systems. While other characters and society members are described in detail, Meursault is not. This serves to reiterate just how far outside society's norms he truly is. And society often kills what it doesn't understand.

Is Meursault Real?

There exists a common perspective on Meursault among several of the blog posts this week. I, like others, believe that Camus is able to articulate the entire story and entertain the reader without ever fully humanizing Meursault. Throughout the story, Meursault's indifference to all things around him make him seem as if he is less than human in his lack of emotion. Things that, arguably, bring the most pain and depression to an individual like the death of a parent seems to have no effect on Meursault and his life. Just after returning home from his mother's funeral, Meursault is preoccupied with Marie and, in a sense, he seems to go on with his life as if nothing profound has happened. Yet, maybe this is the ultimate expression of being alive. Maybe Meursault has something to teach us about life and how we respond to the world around us. But, I still feel as if Camus purposefully leaves Meursault in a state where he is acknowledged by the reader as an alive being, but is simultaneously lacking much of what constitutes a human's day to day life.

Only towards the end are we able to see a change in Meursault's emotional expression. Yet, the change is subtle and I think that Camus intended on ending the story with the main character still stuck in a position of indifference. By doing so, Camus is able to vivify his personal existentialist philosophy, and by leaving Meursault unidentified as a being that is separate in opinion and emotion than the reader, Camus sets up the story in a way that prevents the reader from seeing themselves in him. This opportunity provides the reader the chance to view Meursault's way of life and grasp Camus's philosophy without associating personal views and opinions that often accompany a reader's ability to connect with the main character.

Monday, September 29, 2014

You're Wrong, Mr. Heidkamp

As I was walking out of class today,  Jack Grondwalski comes up to me and says, "Mills, your facial expressions throughout that entire class were HILARIOUS". They certainly were, I just looked so, completely, utterly, blown. First, Mr. Heidkamp asked the question, "What is the essence of life?" Then looked to us to name certain aspects of our lives that we think make our lives, livable. But in actuality, the class didn't have anything to say. We answered his question with almost complete silence. Then he started naming and putting things on the board, such as love, relationships, and we got the hang of it. My first thought was, there is no definition, every person's life is different, and to each their own. However, our teacher continued to put more general stereotypical terms on the board like "success" and "God".

Then he proceeded to cross them out with red dry erase marker and write, "made up" next to them. We discussed for the rest of class how these essences of life were "social constructs" and  "a coping mechanism" for dealing with the "randomness of pain and suffering" in our daily lives.  Happiness, morality, justice, memories, all "made up".

In all honesty, I was mostly trying to break the system of teacher-student, and ask him questions. Get him riled up and annoyed, make him feel like he is back in high school. Hopefully, I succeeded.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Death Vs. Dying

It would be absurd to say that people do not wonder about death. We show curiosity toward it every day, even if we’re not directly aware of it. Death is the largest existing concept dealing with the unknown, so it only makes sense why it crosses our minds so often. But there is an important question to be asked here. Are we truly oh-so-curious about death itself, or is it the process of dying that begs for our attention?
When we flip through the newspaper, or, more likely in this day and age, stumble across news on or electronic devices, we often come across articles covering the topic of death. There are feature stories, crime updates, the obituaries section, and many more random snippets of our chosen publication that discuss some sort of death-related theme. It’s how we react to different kinds of media-related death references, though, that reveals a great amount about human nature.

 Take the obituaries section as an example. Most obituaries do not specify the cause of death, unless it is a special case or is already widely known throughout the community. We’ll read the short piece, learning about this particular person’s family, hobbies, character, and even the time and place of passing, but we’ll inevitably be left with the question: how did he/she die? We’ll ask ourselves this question whether we are aware of it or not and if we like it or not. Since we are not presented with a clue as to how this individual left the physical world, there is nothing that draws us in to the story of this stranger. What’s missing is the allusion to the process of dying, something that captivates us and feeds our curiosity toward the unknown.

 Although it may seem dark, imagine a story about a woman who was brutally murdered, such as the recent news of former Oak Park resident Sheila Von Wiese Mack’s beating death, filling the headlines of your local newspaper. “Beaten,” “strangled,” “stabbed,” “left in a ditch,” even “stuffed in a suitcase:” it’s hard to admit that these phrases don’t capture our attention. We’ll leave the story remembering the details of the gruesome murder for a long time, while we most likely will not remember the favorite professional golfer of the elderly man whose obituary said that he died “peacefully, surrounded by family and friends” at 7:13 p.m. last Wednesday.

 The point is, we like to get an image of the process of dying, and, once obtained, that image sticks with us longer than a casual mention of death does, and thus, death and dying are two very different concepts. The Stranger by Albert Camus makes this differentiation clear. Mersault, the protagonist and narrator, shows virtually no emotion regarding his own mother’s death, disregarding details of her passing, neglecting opening the casket to see her body, and passively participating in her memorial service. The lack of details and descriptive scenes in this part of the story lends to a lack of interest in the mother’s death on both Mersault’s part and the readers’ parts. However, in another part of the story, Mersault shoots a man referred to as “The Arab,” and the description of the killing includes more vivid imagery and complex language than the part about his mother’s death does. The clear description of the details surrounding the murder of the Arab show more interest in the death on, again, both Mersault’s part and the readers’ parts. Thus, we can see a clear difference between the notions of “death” and “dying.”

 It may seem a bit dark to argue that we like to learn gory details of death, but these details stick with us to a greater extent than just casual mentions of death itself do. This point lends itself to a greater discussion about human nature and our unconscious drives and interests in the process of dying.

Question today and question tomorrow.

What is the harm in subscribing to social constructs that exist today? Why must we question the society that has served us well? The issue with The Stranger's discussion of existentialism is that it poses a radical change in perspective from what we are used to. However, the message simply cannot be conveyed without presenting the argument in such a profound manner.

What many fail to recognize is that there is a spectrum, there is an extreme who questions all but another extreme who conforms to every social barrier. Alison Pope from Saunders' "Victory Lap" represents an extreme. Her life is molded by the social expectations of a beautiful, white girl in the 21st century. A key component of the story is her apparent naivete once she is afflicted by pain. It's evident that Alison has a liberated conscious, as in she recognizes the absurd; nevertheless, she ignores her thought, and thus she relishes in the idea that "Ignorance is bliss". Her parents enforcement of what happened the day Kyle came by into her head supports this statement. Saunders uses Alison as a critique of society, in that enough ignorance can sometimes be excessive and destructive to the community.

Mr. Heidkamp's address on Wednesday represents another extreme in which dependence on social constructs is completely eliminated. Obviously, that alternative is not popular amongst people today. So, wherein does there exist a happy medium?

It must be understood along a spectrum. The social constructs that are ingrained in our society cannot be understood as obstacles but rather inevitable components of society. At the same time, one cannot overlook how we are affected by social constructs because questioning is natural and induces growth. A true scholar learns to not only answer the question, but respond with another question.

Be an Existentialist for a Day!

To me, the existential ideals discussed in class are pretty attractive. Breaking free of the system, being an independant being, authenticity. However I don't think it's possible to "achieve" existentialism, and I don't think it's supposed to be. But it is something to think about when you go throughout your day and when you make decisions. Why are you doing the things you do?

I wake up in the morning around 7. Of course I wish everyday to immediately return to bed. Why don't I? I go to brush my teeth. Why do I brush my teeth? Is it because I want other people to know I'm hygienic? Partly, but I also like feeling minty fresh. I get dressed. Why do I wear what I wear? It's very likely I have other people's opinions in mind. But I also enjoy choosing what I wear and collecting clothing items I like. I drink coffee. Why? Do I want to have the ability to be more animated to talk to my peers? Or do I truly enjoy the taste and want to feel more awake, because I don't like feeling dead all day? I could question everything I do and my true intentions in doing it. The truth is, though, that human beings have goals and fears. They have dislikes and likes, and they need to recognize the idea of delayed gratification when they live their life. I think it's definitely possible to separate ourselves from caring about being judged. I don't think in order to authentically go through life you need to completely detach yourself from all the systems you're already participating in. It's just important to be aware of them. We should all probably graduate high school. We should probably brush our teeth. Existentialism is just something to think about.Unless you are born a truly indifferent Meursault like human being, you will have feelings, opinions, and aspirations that keep you from living like he does. That's inevitable. In today's society it is more likely than not you have to play into certain systems, such as our education, in order to get to where you want to go. Along the way, maybe all you have to do is pause and consider why you're doing what you're doing.

Crushing Freedom

It's easy to write existentialism off as a very pessimistic, depressed, and unwelcoming idea, and there is a good reason for that.  Some of it's fundamental ideas are incredibly radical and tend to tear down the very fabric of our society, such as the existence of a God.  In existentialism, there is no God, only man, and this is a key point in the philosophy that both sets it apart as radical, interesting, and also liberating.

In existentialism, the consequences of an absence of a God are what in the end define us as human.  Because there was no creator, that means that humans were not formed with a preconceived idea.  One day there weren't people, the next day there were.  No one sat down and said, "I'm going to make people so that there is a creature that can think and write about things" or anything along those lines.  We just popped up, because that's what happened.  We had to assign our own meaning to our lives, so that, in the words of Jean Paul Sartre, our existence precedes essence.

I bring up Sartre because he is my favorite existential philosopher, and I have always found it hard to disagree with his ideas.  One of my favorite beliefs of his was that of radical freedom, or that humans are inherently and inescapably free, and therefore have huge amounts of responsibility.  That means that whatever we do, we are choosing to do it, no matter what.  While it is true that there are sometimes outside factors that encourage one choice over another, called facticity, only the individual is responsible for his or her actions.  And because of this, each individual is setting an example for humanity.  According to Sartre, because we choose to do what we do, we do what we believe is the right choice that should be made, and thus what we would believe to be the best choice for all of humanity.  It's kind of a confusing concept to grasp at first, but it's hard to dispute.  For every choice, a person weighs what they value and choose whichever they believe holds more value.  For example, you could argue that when a person is being mugged at gunpoint and they hand over their money that they don't have free will.  I mean, they're under the threat of death, right?  But at the same time, instead of handing over the money, they could also try to fight back, or run away.  However, by giving the mugger the money, the person chose out of their own inherent free will to value their potential safety and health over that dollar amount.  By doing that, they are saying that the choice they made was the best one available, and if anyone else was in that situation, that choice would still be the best one to make.

So essentially, everything in existentialism boils down to human freedom, and that's why I both love and hate the philosophy.  I love it because it seems to get at what I've believed personally for a long time--that it's up to people to make meaning in their own lives, and that everything is a product of choice, but I hate it for the same reasons most others hate it--choice isn't always fun, good, or easy.  It would be nice if we could brush responsibility off of ourselves every once in a while, but that is simply not the case.  And the fact that there is facticity, these uncontrollable external forces that limit us, is incredibly frustrating because while we have freedom, it seems like freedom lite because there are still so many things we can't do.  So while existentialism is a liberating philosophy, it is still not an easy one to accept.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Live Like Meursault, or No?

Although Camus insisted that The Stranger was not purely an existentialist novel, existentialist views are clearly present through out the book. In class, we discussed that the key to living in the existentialist way was to reject all social constructs and live under one's own complete control. Accepting that life is meaningless and full of random suffering.

Meursault can be seen as living an existentialist life. He rejects all social systems and lives life the way he wants to. He takes on an indifferent personality and believes there is no meaning to anything. If Camus is trying to show Meursault as living a good existentialist life, then he has succeeded, but if he wants to convince others that this is a better way to live then he picked the wrong poster child.

While parts of Meursault's life can seem appealing, like his lack of worry about anything, other  parts of  his life are lacking.  Through his existentialist life, Meursault has befriended a suspicious neighbor who beats his mistress and agrees to act as a witness on his behalf. He agrees to marry a women even after he says he doesn't love her. He looses a job offer because he shows no drive or gratitude. He ends up in jail and on trial for shooting a man who he does not know five times for no reason. A life that includes all this does not seem to be one that someone would choose to live.

Although I am judging Meursault's life as someone who is affected by social constructs, Meursualt's life is still unappealing.  I think most people would chose to live where they are happy instead of having bad things happen to them like Meursault, even if it meant giving up some control of their life.  If Camus wanted existentialism to seem appealing to people whose lives are affected by systems, Meursault's life is not a good example.

A Trip to the Zoo - Who's Free and Who's Caged?

Today in class, once the explanation of Existential theory had been completely laid down, we got a chance to voice our skepticism.  A majority of the arguments seemed to be geared toward practicality.  Is Existentialism even possible for humans?  In our culture, how can we embrace "finding meaning of life through life itself" when rejecting our institutions could actually lead to death?  And on a slightly different note, if Existentialism involves questioning all systems, doesn't Existentialism become a system itself and contradict itself?  So one would have to fall into Existentialism without actually thinking about it or being externally influenced to subscribe to the philosophy.  Meta-thinking (thinking about thinking) would necessarily have to be absent.  This line of conversation brought to my mind one of the characteristics people use to differentiate human beings from animals - conscious thought.  And if conscious thought is the obstacle withholding humans from ideal existentialism, that makes animals the ideal existentialists because they - in the grandest generalization - lack that conscious thought.  (I internally groaned as Rachel mentioned the gold fish, bringing my train of thought to the verbal conversation - say much more and you'll have stolen my blog post!)

So if our conscious thought is what inevitably confines us, wouldn't it be better to be like animals?  A sizable debate is centered around the confining of animals within our zoos.  What the people who argue on either side of this debate probably don't realize is that the people walking around the zoo are maybe more restricted than the animals in cages.  And maybe zoos are part of another system humans have created to cover up the pain of life.  Perhaps we can't bear the freedom we recognize in animals and feel a need to establish our dominance over them despite our confinement. 

You may have noticed that this post majorly constitutes questions and hypotheticals.  It may even be a little bit annoying - where's the substance?  That's how I felt in my mind.  During the day, this theory progressed and yet no matter how much I made connections, losing my consciousness doesn't seem worth it.  That loss coupled with that freedom isn't appealing.  Only while I was reading other people's blog posts, I think I found a response rooted in Camus's "Myth of Sisyphus".  Camus argues that while all men suffer through the absurd, two of three peoples can still achieve some form of happiness.  The unaware does not recognize their absurd pursuits.  The aware person, however, can either suffer under their pain weighed down by knowledge, or they can come to terms with the inevitability of the absurd and even relish in it.  So for those struggling with Existentialism but feeling it holds truth for them, there is no need to worry over how to destroy human consciousness and become animal-like.  They simply need to accept the absurdity in their life and find comfort in that knowledge.  Maybe not simple after all; but would it still be worth it if it wasn't?

What Gives, Mr. Heidkamp??

Though this concept has been argued in a couple different posts already, I'm gonna make it mine too.

I wasn't in class today, so I didn't hear the end of Mr. Heidkamp's CRAZY spiel about social constructs from yesterday, but I'm really hoping he connected it back to existentialism and Meursault and wasn't just preaching at us about how stupid religion is, how love isn't real. The latter is the part of the argument that really rustled my jimmies more than anything else.

How can you say that love is nothing but a social construct, but pain and suffering are real? You say that love is made up, a sort of reaction formation that covers up the eternal agony mankind collectively experiences (the ONLY feeling that's legitimate, apparently). What does real mean to you? Perhaps you mean that love cannot exist without other people, and to a point that is true. But isn't a lot of the pain one experiences the result of other people too? You'll be affected if a loved one is hurt, or if someone bullies you. Words can be just as damaging as sticks and stones, if not worse, if the circumstances are right. And if you're empathetic, the knowledge that somebody else is hurting and suffering will often result in more pain than not having known them at all. By your logic, doesn't that make emotional pain nothing but a social construct too?

To that you might say that pain has a physical feeling rather than just psychological, caused by stimulus from injury. You could go into human anatomy and describe nerve cells and pain receptors and how they function, but isn't love a result of the nervous system as well? In Escape from Spiderhead, the test subjects were pumped full of hormones and chemicals that forced them to feel emotions of all shapes and sizes, from love to anguish in a matter of seconds. While the nervous system interprets pain receptors, the brain can also pump dopamine into your system to give you the happy go lucky feeling many people experience in love. A basic explanation of love as a bodily function is given here: http://www.wikihow.com/Understand-Love-As-a-Chemical-Reaction . Love can be just as physical as pain.

Next you might say that while pain can exist without any social interaction, like stubbing your toe on a table or tripping on a log and breaking your ankle, love can only be experienced between people. But then why do I love mountains? How can I love the ocean? Or the smell of rain? I love my childhood stuffed animals. Obviously, none of these are human. And if people had never influenced my opinions in my entire life, I wouldn't think those things any less beautiful. Just like pain, true love can exist without any human interaction at all.

Both love and pain can be emotional, both love and pain can be physical. How else can you define emotions and sensations? They can both be influenced by social interactions, they can both be independent. Why can't pain and suffering be constructs to limit too much love, why does it have to be your way? And I haven't even gotten into how love and pain are completely subjective and vary from person to person, I don't mind you arguing one way or another that they're primarily social constructs or concrete sensations, but your inconsistency is unjust and unreasonable and ridiculous and sdf;ldfgklahsdlvkghjadfs. How dare you. For me, that doesn't make any sense in the world.

Why Break Social Constructs?

What is the true reward of going outside the "social constructs" or systems of life? Why become an existentialist? After the discussion we had in class and having had time to think about it outside of class, I cannot see a true reward in becoming an existentialist. Sure, I see how we might be part of "systems" and how these systems can shape our lives, but leaving this system and normal life does not seem appealing. From what I got, becoming an existentialist means detaching yourself from the human population. If there is to be truly no influence on a person and for them to completely control themselves and their future, they must be alone. You must let go of everything you have been living with and for for your entire life. I feel like breaking the wall of social constructs has become too much of a social construct itself. I am perfectly content with how I/we live now; sports, religion, relationships, love, education, all these things put under the category of social constructs are what I  enjoy the most in life. Maybe I have been put into sports or brought up to believe school is important, but I do not have a problem with any of it, I  have no inclination to go "outside the box". The reward in my point of view of becoming an existentialist and becoming completely independent in mind is nothing special. I enjoy all the "social constructs" that we live in, and maybe it is just because we know nothing else, but I am fine with that.

It Makes No Difference

Existentialism states that we can only truly be free if we are entirely independent of the systems of society. These systems effect us both conscientiously and sub-conscientiously in almost every aspect of our lives whether we choose to accept it or not. Even if we believe that we have unique and personalized relationships and friendships they are still shaped by systems. This is apparent if you just examine your relationships. Do you kiss you friends like you would your boyfriend/ girlfriend? Do you obey them as you would your parents? Well why not? The answer is because those relationships are already defined by society and you act only within them. Similarly you can claim that everyone has their own individual ethics and no two people have the same, because they arise through personal experience. However society has still created the idea of morality, the idea that there is a right and a wrong. This concept does not exist within nature. Because these systems shape arguably all of our actions, we are not truly free, but rather slaves to society and the social norms of the systems. The only way to them set yourself free is to question everything about the world and about yourself and reject all of the worlds systems. You become truly free to define yourself, this is most human you can be. In this case identity is closely related to purpose or meaning. If you look at an object like a pen you can see its purpose, to solve our writing needs, it was created for that reason, it's purpose preceded its existence. Humans are totally different however, we must gain our purpose through our existence, it does not inherently exist. Existentialists believe that the systems of society define our purpose for us before we even exist, because of course they are so constraining. Therefor we are most human when we are outside of these systems and are free to define ourselves. The meaning of life then becomes for each person to gain their own subjective meaning through living life.

While I agree with a lot of things in existentialism but I think that there are some flaws and hypocrisies within it. To start, the idea that death is bad is itself a system, this was brought up in class by Isabel. And it is very true, we all just assume that death is this bad scary thing. But why? Ask yourself why you think death is bad? It's an inevitability, and this can't be avoided, everybody will die eventually, and countless people have done so already. So why is it this  big scary thing that almost everyone fears? It's because society has posited it this way, though various different notions, some stemming from separate systems entirely, such as religion. So the fact that the fundamental idea of existentialism, namely that in the world there is only pain and suffering- culminating in death, is itself a system, is a pretty big hole. Next is the problem of reaching the sort of existentialist goal of freedom from all systems. It is impossible to never be exposed to these systems as after we are born we are immediately expose to the system of parenthood and the relationship is often the first of our many experiences. So then if you cannot avoid these systems then in order to achieve this you must fully accept all systems and immerse yourself in all of them. Only then can u fully understand them and begin to comprehend what it means to be free. It reminds me of the idea in Marxism that says in order for society to become communist it must first be capitalist, so as to create the strife that starts the revolution and creates the communist society. In order for the good to happen (existentialist freedom), you must first accept the exact opposite, the every thing that the good posits is the problem (slavery of systems). And finally when you do achieve this state of "freedom" are you truly "free"? You are still effected by all of the systems in that you must rejects them, they still effect you just in different ways. Existence within systems can be defined by X, if you were to suddenly achieve a truly existential existence you would still be constrained by these systems by your forced rejection of them, your existence then can just be defined as -X. All of the opposite properties of X but still with all the same limitations, just in the inverse. Look at Meursault, his only character trait is that he is an existentialist, and all he does is just bounce from one system to the next forced to reject them all. The fact that they still exist means that he must avoid them and that becomes his identity. So it is all sort of futile.

Is it bad that I don't mind Social Constructs?

I'll admit that I was quite frustrated with Mr. Heidkamp these past two days when he seemed to be arguing as devil's advocate. Today, as he concluded the discussion with the main views of existentialism, his points made more sense, yet I could not help but to still wonder, why are the social systems he raged against so bad?

According to Existentialism, social systems such as organized religion, education, love, friendships, morality, success, etc, are purely social constructs that trap people into their patterns. What existentialists advocate is to break free of those systems and assert your authentic independence, be in complete control of yourself. This assertion sounds great, but to do so, one must accept the fact that life in itself is meaningless, and that the individual gives life meaning. It is the first belief that I cannot accept- life is not meaningless in and of itself. I believe that we find meaning in our relationships and our success, and that these "social constructs" are not entirely bad things. In fact, even if I did accept the existentialist belief that life is meaningless until you give it meaning and break free of the systems, I would not want to apply this to my own life. It is both inapplicable to today's world, and altogether not a desirous solution for me.

To completely break free of all of the systems- relationships, school, morality, justice, success- in the modern word would be near impossible. It would, for example, require dropping out of school, which then leads to no job or money, which then leads to homelessness and starvation. Be it good or bad, our society is constructed in a way that we need to participate in the systems to survive. Furthermore, and maybe I have just been brainwashed by our dominating culture, I actually enjoy our "social constructs." I love my family and friends, I enjoy working for success and attaining it, and I even like going to school sometimes. I don't want to leave all of those just to assert my independence. I cannot possess the indifference to love, jobs, and justice like Mersault does in The Stranger. So while I may be submitting myself to control by the system, I'll admit that it I won't mind it too much.

Let's Kill Our Heroes

Well I met an old man
dying on a train.
No more destination
no more pain.
Well he said
"one thing, before I graduate...
never let your fear decide your fate."

I say ya kill your heroes and
fly, fly, baby don't cry.
No need to worry cuz
everybody will die.
Every day we just
go, go, baby don't go.
Don't you worry we
love you more than you know. 
Well the sun one day will
leave us all behind.
Unexplainable sightings
in the sky.
Well I hate to be
the one to ruin the night.
Right before your, right before your eyes.

It was a little difficult to sit through that English class and not think about how crazy Mr. Heidkamp sounded. But what I realized after thinking over the class discussion a little more and listening to music is that existentialism is everywhere.

In the song Kill Your Heroes by Awolnation some existentialistic views can be found under the powerful drums and Aaron Bruno's screamy voice. Bruno starts the song like a story talking about an old man on a train. The lines "No more destination/ no more pain." highlight the fact that death is inevitable and ever present.

Bruno continues to tell his listeners to "kill their heroes." I do not think he means literally go and kill the person you want to emulate or look up to, but I think that the line is a metaphor and he is saying we should not waste time falling prey to social constructions like heroes. Believing in heroes is not going to get you anywhere in life.

"Every day we just/ go, go, baby don't go." This line was tougher to decipher. If we are analyzing this line with an eye for the existentialist then he is saying society just goes and if you want to get happiness from life then you cannot just go you have to be an individual. 

Bruno is getting at the core of existentialism. He is saying that life is best experienced when you are just living. In order to get the most out of our lives we need to ignore our "heroes" avoid social constructs and be as individualistic before our rapidly approaching demise.

Does everyone share the same meaning of life?

We began the discussion of existentialism with the idea that all the things that we make up in our minds to be the meaning of life, actually have no meaning at all. Or, rather, maybe they do have meaning to our shallow lives, but the meaning is all fake; something that we as humans socially constructed as a system of which to live by. What confuses me about this approach is that by saying that happiness, relationships, and love are all just part of a system, why is pain, suffering, and the anxiety and emotion that follows the idea of death not also system? Similar to what was brought up at the end of class, I think that the anxiety associated with the idea of dying is just as much a system as the happiness associated with relationships.

Everyone has their own definition of happiness and I think the same can be said for death. There are in fact several cultures that banish all anxiety-arousing ideas of death and turn them into something of which to celebrate. I think that by classifying the emotion of death so broadly, existentialists are not taking the entire human race into full account. By saying that we create these social constructs of ideal happiness (the left side of the board) to mask pain and suffering, "existentialists" are making pain and suffering into a system itself and therefore, it seems to me that there really is no way to truly escape the system, or to simply exist. 

While spending time in prison, Meursault remarks, "if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but to look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would've gotten used to it..." (77). According to what I understand as existentialism, this seems to be what would be classified as authentic living, or living 100% detached from any of these social constructs. However, I feel that many would agree that living in a hollow tree trunk is not truly living your live to it's fullest extent and it seems to be hard to find meaning in that. While I understand that the benefit to this sort of life would be to have compete control over your life, it makes me question whether living detached from the system really worth it in the end.

Is existentialism worth its burden?

If adherence to existentialism denotes a liberation from the imprisonment by social constructs, it also gives singular, complete power to action. If not defined by identification with morality, justice, religion, faction, nation, institution, I am indeed free to individualize. 

My very self-hood becomes what I make of it. My choices carry weight like never before. I define myself through my actions. The undoing of the social constructs forces me to let my true inner self shine forth. Knowing each choice defines his very self-hood, near-crushing anxiety encompasses his each decision. Existentialism's hidden burden must be paralyzing.

Existentialism's first goal, as reported by the Handbook of Individual Therapy, by ed Dryden is
"to enable people to become more truthful with themselves."

But is being true to yourself worth the charge?

Meursault's Existence

In examining the character of Meursault I have come to discover his tendency to contract the personality of an existentialist.  One of the instances that have lead me to this conclusion is in the event of his mothers death.  When he attends her funeral he doesn’t show sadness or shed a tear, however, all of his mothers friends were crying and paying their respects.  Meursault’s indifference to his mothers death shows his resistance to the social confinement that that life systems create.  

Meursault also demonstrates existentialism when he kills a man at the end of part one of the novel.  Instead of thinking of morality and justice he becomes a radical subject and kills a man with indifferences and without a thought of how his actions could affect others.  

I think that Camus wrote Meursault as an existential character to portray his own existentialism.  Meursault doesn’t express his emotions nor does he seem to have feelings.  He is able to live happily on his own despite the random suffering that occurs in his life.  

Meaning of Life Found in a Rap Song?

After all this lovely talk of existentialism and the meaning of life in class, I have been pondering whether or not I agree with Mr. Heidkamp or not. After today's class I popped in my headphones and a song titled "Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)" came on, a rap song written by Kendrick Lamar. The title in itself is seemingly explicit and ignorant yet when I listened to the lyrics I was able to connect it to class. In the opening hook he sings,

Ride to it, ride to it, cause you never know
When a bullet might hit and you die to it, die to it
Die to it, die to it, live your life, live it right
Be different, do different things
Don't do it like he did, cause he ain't what you is
But we can win, wait, let's get straight to the point

To the meaning of life, what's my purpose?
Maybe this Earth is ain't a good place to be...

Is he an existentialist? Born in Compton, Kendrick is familiar with random pain and suffering as he shows in this lyric. Yet, still aware of this random suffering in this world, he keeps his head up and says that we need to live our lives and be different from others. He also questions the meaning of life, which possibly is unknowingly answered in the lyric prior, and concludes that this world is possibly a bad place due to all the pain and suffering he has witnessed. I find this incredible that in a song written by as some would say an "ignorant" rapper, we find a deep analyst of life. Even if you don't believe in existentialism it is still fascinating.

Why I like Camus

The last two days of discussion seemed to be Mr. Heidkamp vs. the English class. What sparked the heated controversy was the idea of abandoning social constructs in order to live an independent life. Camus argues that rejecting social constructs and accepting life as an inevitable travel towards death is what allows one to be truly free. However, many others asserted that social constructs, such as relationships, memories, etc., are what give meaning to life. To renounce them, one would have to live in isolation or be dead. While Camus's portrayal of Meursault in "The Stranger" may some bleak because he succeeds in living without social constructs, I think that Meursault is the most genuine character of all.

Mersault is a peculiar character, to say the least. He is indifferent to just about everything and seems to take life as it is. He is the epitome of Camus' existentialist, in that he values human experience over the essence of life. While this lifestyle can often make him appear cold or unkind due to his lack of emotional ties, especially in the case of his mother and Marie, compared with the other relationships in the book in my opinion, his life is most real, which is what Camus may be getting at. Raymond beats his mistress, Salamano abuses his dog, and Marie claims to be in love with Meursault at their second encounter. It is interesting to note that in all of these relationships, they end up alone. Raymond's mistress and Salamano's dog run away, and Meursault ends up in jail so Marie cannot see him. The relationships they form, or what Camus may see as their living under a system of social constructs, ultimately lead them to unhappiness.

Meursault, on the other hand, understands that no matter what, life ends in death. Though I agree that this is not the happiest way of living, he has the most control over his life; he has what Camus would call true freedom. In my opinion, this interesting ideology is what makes Camus a compelling writer.

Sisyphus and The Swimmer

As I read "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus, I found myself comparing Sisyphus to Neddy, the protagonist of "The Swimmer" by John Cheever. I think that Neddy resembles Sisyphus at a time before Camus' analysis of him: a prequel to Camus' essay. 

Camus takes interest in the time that Sisyphus spends descending the hill as the rock rolls down. Camus describes this time as a tragic "hour of consciousness" in which Sisyphus is acutely aware of the futility of his labor. Yet, Camus believes that, by acknowledging his suffering and seemingly purposeless existence, Sisyphus becomes superior to his own fate. Thus, he describes Sisyphus as victorious.

In "The Swimmer," Neddy approaches this "hour of consciousness." Unlike Sisyphus, he is so hopeful and driven by the goal of accomplishing his task that he is blissfully ignorant of his own suffering. He continues to swim towards his imagined home, unaware of his social and mental degeneration. Only when he reaches his empty house does he realize the gravity of his situation. 

Perhaps Sisyphus was once like Neddy: hopefully pushing the rock up the hill with a sense of purpose and believing that he might actually complete the task. And maybe, like Neddy at the end of the story, he had a moment when he realized that his labor truly had no purpose other than to distract him from the reality of his suffering. 

Your Life Doesn't Matter (but neither does Anyone's)

     So, after two class periods that questioned the purpose of life and how to measure how great a life was, I'm just flabbergasted by my own thoughts. Gee how I hate psychology and how my brain feels after it. But as I returned home from school and scrolling through Spotify for some new music, I found this band named General Ghost. I wouldn't describe them as a well known band, so I listened and really enjoyed their song "If Then." When I connected the English discussion to the song, I looked up the lyrics and found that they said the following: 
If you never lose nothing
If you never really lose nothing
Then you never lose

If never tried to quit
Holding on to what will make you sick
Then you never quit

I'd rather fail every time
Then to know I'd never tried
Never lived, never died
Just for an easy life, life, life.

If you never love someone
If you never really love someone 
Then you never love

If you never want to feel
Anything that ever seems too real
Then you never feel

I'd rather fail every time
Then to know I'd never tried
Never lived, never died 
Just for an easy life, life, life.
     Combining these lyrics and the idea of Existentialism creates an interesting parallel. The simple wording of "If you never lose nothing... then you ever lose" seems similar to the idea of if you never really break out of the systems you live in, you never lived. Although the singer probably did not expect his lyrics to match with the radical idea of Existentialism, their similarity is uncanny.
    Now personally, I find the idea of Existentialism to be stupid and pointless. If people try to act independently to break systems, they are just joining another system. Simple as that. I'm. Not. Breaking. A. Typing. System. By. Typing. Like. This. WritinginthismanneronpurposeorbecauseIfeellikeitdoesn'tmakemeanExistentialist. Who is to tell me that everything in my life for success and relationships is pointless. Some old dead French smoker whose writing is just like someone else's doesn't mean his life is better or fuller than mine. There are 7 billion or so people on the Earth and telling people to live like recluses in caves is a regression of social progress and would lead to a nomadic lifestyle. Whoever thinks that living like it's 10,000 BC where nobody reaches 40 and nobody cares about if you were by yourself or with others, be my guest. In the end, your life won't matter anyway, or mine, or anyone's. Generations before you and after you will pass on and you'll just be a rock surrounded by other forgotten people.

What gives your life meaning?

Before we began the lecture on existentialist philosophy, I felt pretty confident in what I felt provides meaning in my life.  Family, love, God and my faith: all examples of what I thought provided the meaning in my life. Yet, with a swish of an expo marker, I was told that these were just social constructs I was buying into. To be an existentialist, it appears one must come to acknowledge these social constructs and bypass the system to become an entirely radical subject. Sure, it sounds interesting to be in complete and utter control of your life and the choices you make, but I wasn't convinced that I would necessarily find that preferable to the idea of continuing to find influence in the social systems I am currently apart of. I have realized over the last two days that, yes, my life choices and the way I think is influenced by the systems that I willingly participate in. But, if I find satisfaction in knowing that I am in fact being influenced by the systems I am a part of, then I don't think it is something that needs to be reversed.

No matter what, life involves inexplicable and random suffering. Although I do see that I may mask the reality of some of life's random pain with my relationships with others and my faith, I am not willing to denounce those things to grasp that the only true meaning of life is life itself. I think that what is most important and what was, in my opinion, the goal of Mr. Heidkamp's lecture was to show us that the everyday systems that we are involved in do have an influence on the way we live. I think his point was to show us that there is another side to life, which is the side in which we are entirely subjective. I feel that as long as we acknowledge the truth of what is and isn't having an influence on us, as well as the impact it has on us in terms of whether or not we are comfortable and content with that influence, then we are free to personally choose whether or not we want to continue our participation in those systems.

Can We Truly Venture Into the Wild?

(Huge spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie, I apologize in advance) 

Today Mr. Heidkamp mentioned the film Into the Wild in comparison with our discussion in class. In the film, a top student and athlete named Christopher McCandless, who recently graduated from college, decides to leave his life behind. He abandons his family, his money, and most importantly, social constructs. This relates a lot to the question as to whether or not it is truly possible to become existential beings, and whether or not we would be able to live away from systems. Into the Wild examines what would happen if someone attempted to become separate; and the ending of the film could be interpreted in two different ways. 

Unfortunately, at the end of the movie, Christopher doesn’t make it through his journey. He ends up dying from accidentally eating a poisonous seed known as Hedysarum mackenzii (wild sweet pea). The film basically suggests that even if we are motivated enough to spend 119 days in the Alaskan wilderness, we cannot strip ourselves from these systems. We cannot abandon social constructs because we need them to survive. This is the first interpretation.

The second interpretation relates to our fear of death. Part of existentialism revolves around accepting pain and suffering, and knowing that eventually we will die. At the end of the film, Christopher seems okay with dying. He is happy for the life he was able to live and isn’t afraid of leaving it behind. I am posting the video to the ending, but keep in mind that it is a death scene (and it ruins a big part of the movie). I’m going to let you choose whether or not you want to see it.

Death, Celebrated.

The social constructs that emerge as systems of life may be facades attempting to guard human condition from acknowledging the arbitrary essence of death and pain, however I'd like to go off on a tangent from the discussion of the meaning of life and instead discuss a point that was brought up towards the end of the lesson.

In Western culture, the connotations of death include (but are not limited to) mourning, agony, and misery. We presumably base our "essence of life"on social constructs in order to find meaning that will explain this arbitrary and inevitable agony. But what if a culture does not view death in such a manner? There are other cultures not only across the seas but even within North America that choose to celebrate death instead of fear it. In Tibetan Buddhism, a practice common throughout all of Asia, the deceased are believed to have followed seven "cycles" that will eventually lead to rebirth. Unlike Christianity, there is no separate realm for the deceased in Tibetan Buddhism; the departed soul is led to new opportunities for happiness.

In Mexico, death is literally celebrated. Rather than mourn the death of someone when he or she dies, The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday that honors the dead in a festive manner. In lieu of what would be expected to be a tragic commemoration, the Day of the Dead is a way of embracing death as a celebrated aspect of culture.

I cannot say that the nature of death is a pleasurable one. The passing of a friend or loved one (whether or not you believe your relationship with said person is caused by social constructs) can be very sorrowful. It has been argued that death does not occur for the actual deceased, but rather it happens to everyone around it. Nonetheless, we have the opportunity to either fear death and opt to escape its misery for a little while longer or we can trudge through the inescapable and unexplainable truth with the hope that our lives will replace our ignorance with adventure.

The Inevitability of Social Constructs

Social constructs are the unwritten ideals that people in different societies have because of their culture.  Using this definition, one must accept that a society is a group of people defined by their shared views and values (often in addition to their more objective geographic and political features).  In that sense, different communities of different sizes impose rules on individuals, and every individual belongs to many societies ranging in size from countries to small groups of friends.  Because individuals have some choice in the societies to which they belong (like groups of friends), they choose to be with people who are similar to them.

Then, without deliberation or discussion, the societies form unwritten values shared by the majority of the people. Although these values and the rules they imply are always changing, they are at any given point oppressive to at least one person in the group.  In this way, human interaction inevitably leads to social constructs. So to be a true existentialist, one must live in isolation.

Are relationships and memories really social constructs?

When we discussed the meaning to life and why life matters, relationships and memories somehow fell into the category of made up social constructs. I agree with putting money, education, and gender roles in the "made up by people" part of life. But what I don't understand is why memories and relationships were also put there. Memories are yours to hold and keep because they were your experiences and they are not just stories to tell. They might not be the meaning of life or why life matters, or without them, you don't have a life; but they are most certainly not social constructs because they are a part of who you are.
Relationships are also not social constructs. As Mills said in class, relationships are a mutual agreement between people who connect. Relationships would still be a part of life even without the systems everyone is supposedly a part of. I don't think that relationships and memories were "made" to cover-up the "random, irrational, and inexplicable" pain and suffering that comes with existence.

Existentialist Art

Okay, just my doodling ...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Circle of Life (and Camus)

“Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition” (Camus 3).

Okay perhaps this is a stretch but bear with me here. I’m going to take us back to Benjamin and then go full circle.

Benjamin talked about two major concepts: binaries and mutual recognition. I believe that our discussion of what gives life meaning today in class, Camus’ theory of Sisyphus, and Meursault of The Stranger himself all tie back to mutual recognition, particularly self-recognition, and a key binary: authority versus the individual. As an initial clarification, the authority in this binary is not necessarily a government or physical entity, but rather some higher power enacting conditions on an individual’s fate.

Today during class, we reached the conclusion that what gives life meaning is life itself. This, to me, refers to the actions we make as individuals; everyone has a responsibility for anything they do that causes any sort of change, be it seemingly insignificant and temporary such as planting a flower, or one with more weight. It’s those actions, generally speaking, that give our lives any sort of meaning. How we live our lives and value what we do results in the meaning we believe our lives possess.

A counterexample to that kind of thinking is Meursault. He chooses to ignore his own actions, for the most part, and act purely on physical desire; anything that ties him to an action that would spur a change, significant or otherwise, he avoids like the plague. Marriage? Love? Job opportunities? All useless agents of change that he treats with a cavalier wave of his hand. The only catalyst that sparks any wavering in his existentialist lifestyle is death, which is a rather inevitable cause of change. He follows a general philosophy that “[t]o stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing” (57). Refusing change is Meursault’s way of avoiding individualism altogether, but removing his life of meaning.

Which leads to Camus’ philosophy of Sisyphus, the poor mythological rock-pusher. Most would think his incessant task of pushing a rock up a hill repeatedly for eternity would be a punishment, but Camus, among other points, argues that Sisyphus is happy because he is aware of himself and his past experiences, as well as his contribution to his own fate. He may be pushing the rock, but he is pushing the rock because of his own actions, not because the gods have put him there. This turns his fate into not a punishment, but a choice, where he has triumphed.

He has triumphed over the authority versus individual binary by utilizing self-recognition.

It’s really a matter of perception, of thinking about one’s own life in terms of oneself instead of in terms of being a subject, but it’s enough to allow him freedom from one of the most difficult binaries there is. The gods did not choose his fate; he did, and he recognizes that he did via his own actions. This agency is essential in the escape from the binary and the possession of meaning in life.

Our in-class discussion concluded that actions, in other words, the agency of the individual, give life meaning. Sisyphus’ life, although seemingly the most pointless struggle known to man or god, has meaning. All lives have meaning, but in order to escape the binary and realize it, we must recognize ourselves as agents of change for our own lives. Sisyphus succeeded; Meursault has found a cheap way out. He chooses to completely avoid the binary altogether by not even attempting to be an individual. The only agent of change brought on by whatever higher power life brings that can force him into the mercy of the authority portion of the binary is death, but other than that Meursault has managed to avoid acknowledging any consequences or effects of his actions whatsoever. Denying change gives no reason to contemplate a cause for said change, leaving the authority and the individual obliterated from any significance, thus eliminating the binary.

As for us, well, we will have to abide by Benjamin’s philosophy and struggle to see ourselves as individuals, realize our own agency and give our lives meaning, and break free of the authority grip of the binary. Unless being like Meursault seems like a good idea, but I would wait until we find out his fate in Part 2 of the book before choosing his path.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Am I abusing my dog?

When we were discussing Benjamin's thoughts about binaries I thought of the relationships in my life that I value, and whether or not they were a harmful binary. I thought about my relationship with my parents, which is definitely questionable, but that is an entirely different post. I thought about my relationships with my friends, which for the most part I think we at least try to mutually recognize each other. But then I thought about somebody who is very valuable to me, and yet is probably the worst relationship I have, by Benjamin's standards. That somebody is my dog, Tucker. He is a 3-4 year old borador whom I love very much.

Maybe our relationships with our pets do not have to follow the same standards as our relationships with people. Obviously, since I am not a vegetarian, I can't really preach too much about animal rights. However, sitting here with Tucker at my feet, I can't help but think I'm mistreating him when I don't think of him as an equal. Even though an owner/pet relationship already suggests a domination in the name, I think it's possible to have that while having mutual recognition. Similarly to a parent/child or teacher/student, someone can have the upper hand while still respecting the other. When I ignore my dog's pleas for attention in an attempt to teach him not to whine when he wants something, I can't explain to him that I would give him a belly rub if he would just calm down for a second. Or when I pull on his leash when he's taking a long time to sniff a pole because I'm in a hurry, I am blatantly prioritizing my needs over his. I always feel guilty, as Benjamin expressed, after I dominate my beloved pup like that. At the same time, although such occasions are much more rare, he feels guilty when he eats my food or vomits on the carpet. Although we have a very beneficial relationship to both sides, I think it is ME/him, and I am trying to change that. However I'm also trying to change that in my head my relationship with my dog is more valuable sometimes than with humans. Do you feel you treat your pet as an equal, or even that you should?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Break the social barriers!

After last week's presentations, I was puzzled by the reserved social environment that was evident during each of the group's analysis of the story. We spent the week reading and analyzing how social barriers define how each of us present ourselves to the world, yet we failed to recognize their presence within our own classroom. Question after question, there was a dull silence for, at least, the first five seconds. Granted sometimes answers were unclear, if the presentations were given as a written assessment, I predict the discussion about the topic would have more contributors than in class that day.

It was not until the last day when we discussed "The Language of Men" that I recognized the tacit social code connected to talking in class. Carter expresses his recognition of socially acceptable behavior for men, although others may be so engrossed in it they cannot recognize it themselves. I'm not trying to criticize because I am included in the mass of students that submit to the social standard of what is acceptable behavior in class; however, I challenge myself and others to defy it and engage in the conversation. We cannot think that saying the "wrong" thing in class or refuting another's argument is bad because failure and debate are what lead to success. Learning is about questioning the truth and understanding why it is, in fact, true. These stories implicitly apply to our lives today for if they didn't why would we even read them? "The Secret Woman" taught me not to be afraid of my natural tendencies, so here it is. As Michael Jordan said, "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."

Guys Can Cry?

In the short story, Language of Men, the main character Carter struggles with identifying himself in his environment.  He is placed in the military where masculinity is dominant and unfortunately for him he must fight his own mental comfortability to conform.  Carter strives to always be recognized or appreciated for his actions, which assists his new comparison to a "housewife."  Carter also has conflicting thoughts on how to resolve conflicts.  Stereotypically guys will fight physically or briefly, but in Carter's case after fighting with Hobbs he seeks to resolve it totally by bringing it up again instead of burying the hatchet. This seemingly feministic approach leads Carter to unsuccessful relationships with his male friends.

Presently, walking through the halls, male interaction is stereotypically shallow and physical, however, I believe that in more recent developments guys have shed light to a more sensitive side.  Why should men have to hide behind a stoic expression in the face of conflict?  Women have been known to want to express there feelings and resolve conflict with words and emotions.  It is just another gender standard established by society.  If you were to discover a boy crying in the middle of the hallway societal standards have lead us to deem him as weak or feminine, although, if a girl were to cry in the hall she would be comforted because that behavior is expected.  The Language of Men helps to explain the struggles that go along with differing views in gender categories.   

The Power of Anonymity

When we had the conversation in class about anonymity and The Secret Woman, I found it very interesting that it came with the time of the rise of "Yik Yak," a new app where you can make posts anonymously about anyone or anything with no connection. And yes, I too shook my head when my friends brought it up in conversation. At first I thought it was pretty stupid and seemed like people were just asking for rude name dropping and a gateway into cyber bullying and I dismissed the idea pretty quickly. I felt similarly about that ask.fm thing that was a rise like two years ago; it was as if people were basically asking for trouble. But why is anonymity so dangerous? And does it have to be? Why does the fact that something is anonymous assumed to be dangerous? And why does anonymity raise the level of intrigue so drastically? 

It made me think a lot about how our name is attached to everything we do and how this changes when we are no longer defined by what people say. Why is a website where people can ask you anonymous questions so much more "powerful" and interesting and intriguing than just sending people questions if you have a question? The way that people are able to speak with more vulgar and passion when their name is not attached to it says a lot about our culture as a whole, especially social media culture. So much of our daily lives happens online and in the majority of situations, our name is attached to everything we do. I think its fascinating that people are so much more eager to say things and make comments about things when their name isn't attached. We don't want to be defined by what we say because people might take it negatively. Not only does this say a lot about our fear of loosing our personal image, but it exemplifies also how we are able to create a whole new image online. The fact that this virtual definition of ourselves is rising into so much power says so much about our culture that I think is only progressing with time. 

Foreign Language

After analyzing "The Language of Men" in class, I realized that many people face the identity struggle that Carter deals with. Carter did everything in his power to make people love him and want to be around him, but ultimately he still failed.

I think many people deal with this struggle, especially in middle school and high school. The desire to fit in is something that the majority of people deal with at some point. This struggle made me think of Beyonce's song and music video "Why Don't You Love Me". In this song, Beyonce is talking about her desire to be desired in a relationship. I think this relates to the story we read in class because like Beyonce, Carter tries almost everything to be wanted by the people he associates with and it still does not work. 

Along the way, I think that Beyonce and Carter learn that originality is key to finding your identity and being accepted. They both have unique qualities that will eventually be desired an accepted. I think this is applicable to middle school and high school. People who feel like they don't fit in during their younger years go on to do amazing things in their adult lives and are surrounded by great people who accept them.

The Language of Louie

I  enjoyed The Language of Men because I feel like it accurately portrayed the way men behave in social situations-that is, according to some obscure and unwritten code.  One of the criticisms of this language in the story and one that I hear about often (such as in class) is about how men have to settle their disputes with violence. Wouldn't it be so much easier if everyone could simply talk their problems out, instead of having to resort to fisticuffs?

Well, according to Louis CK, that is theoretically the best choice.  However, he examines the consequences of peaceful acquiescence in his show Louie, where in his episode "Bully" he is confronted by a testosterone filled teenager while on a first date with a lady.  The gist of what happens is that the kid threatens Louie and Louie submits to the kid in order to not get beaten by some hormonal chimp.  The problem is, after he does that, his date is immediately not attracted to him anymore, because of some prehistoric instinct.  The date, which had been going very well up until that point, is now ruined because although the date wants to believe that Louie did the right, mature, and responsible thing, she just can't shake off the fact that he is a coward.

This episode provides good insight on the pressures to conform to masculinity not just because of an inherent desire to be manly or accepted by your peers, but also the need to appear attractive.  One of Louie's signature aspects is the fact that pretty much everyone in the Louie universe is unfiltered and speaks their minds no matter what.  So from this, we can see through Louis CK's eyes the progress of Feminism in deconstructing male gender roles.  Essentially, things are getting better, because Louie's date does realize that he did the right thing, and that she should still be attracted to him.  However, men are pressured to conform to these aggressive male archetypes because if they don't, they are considered weak and unattractive to the opposite sex.

It's also important to recognize the fact that this is in no way a criticism of women, feminism, or anything like that.  CK is not necessarily saying that it's their fault for not being turned off by a guy who has to submit to a high schooler.  If you watch the scene in question, it is hard not to lose some respect for Louie, despite the fact that you know exactly why he is choosing not to fight.  This is simply his way of demonstrating the inherent difficulty of pacifism as a male.  View it as more of a commentary rather than a critique.  I'd assume from this episode that CK himself is a feminist, as he clearly shows that he has a lot to gain from Feminism and the deconstruction of gender roles, and it shows how the gender roles are negatively affecting his life.