Saturday, October 29, 2005

So Maria and I went to the PMA/NKE Normal Formal last night. Pictures to come, as soon as Tex sends them to me. Stupid re-chargeable batteries not re-charging on time...

Anyways, although I had a wonderful time and so forth, and got to spend time with my wonderful Maria (always a plus), there was something that really struck me for some reason. It was this one slow song that seemed really familiar for some reason and I ended up Googling the lyrics later on, after Maria and I got back from the dance. Turns out it's an old Elton John tune that apparently every other American kid except me has heard at some point or another. It's called "Rocket Man," and though I'm sure most of you have already heard it, it's the refrain that really gets me:

And I think's it gonna be a long, long, time
'Til touchdown brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no, I'm a rocket man
Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone
And I think it's gonna be a long, long, time...

Now, let me preface my reflections on this with a little something. My philosophy has always been that I'll give every musical artist, no matter how horrible, a chance to redeem themselves. Likewise, I believe even awesome bands can do horrible songs, pace Pink Floyd and "We Don't Need No Education." So, even though I could never call myself an Elton John fan, I believe there are several of his songs that are definitely worth hearing. And this has now joined the list.

I've written a bunch of stuff on this same subject--leaving home and the inevitable sense of alienation and abandonment it brings. In some ways, this song is an allegory. It's not just about a guy who's flying off into space. It's about leaving and coming back, and realizing how much can change. Because, really, isn't that what it's all about? Leaving home and coming home and finding out that you're not the man that your loved ones thought you were...that you aren't the man you thought you were? I've left and come back too many times to come to any other conclusion, that each departure makes me a different man. And now here I am, burning out my fuse on Instrumental Analysis and Physical Chemistry. There was a time this week I felt really alone, for some reason. Maybe it was the fact that it was cold outside and I didn't have a coat (and if you think that's silly, try walking in the cold without a jacket. You'll feel really lonely really quickly), or maybe it was the impending PChem Test Of Doom, but sometimes college can make you feel really alone. At first it makes you feel really loved and accepted, but sooner or later you have to come to terms with the fact that it's more than halfway done and that when you leave, you're going to have to have at least a somewhat coherent plan on what you want to do with your life now that your academic security blanket has been roughly yanked away.

And maybe it will be a long, long, time. Maybe I'll always feel kind of alone. Maybe part of being human in this life is realizing that ulitmately, you are alone, and that that's OK. After all, a lot of coming to grips with things is merely letting them be OK and not doing a hell of a lot to try to change them, fatalistic as that sounds. It doesn't mean I don't want to make a difference...I just want to be able to figure out when it's worth it to try to change something, and when it's better to merely leave it be and let it be what it is. So I guess I'll just keep tilting at my various windmills until I figure out which ones are worth attacking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hmmm. I guess I should have updated this a while ago.

Things between the fair Maria and I have improved vastly since the previous, rather bleak post. I think part of the reasons we had such a hard time was a confluence of stress and unhappiness on both our parts due to school and work related things. I usually refrain from such candid appraisals of my personal life on here--preferring to hide behind innuendo and sardonic euphemisms--but sometimes...well, I can't just blog about poetry, music, and classes all the time. I guess I have to find a balance between a bland, trivial blog that doesn't do much for anyone except my immediate circle and a "Dear Diary" LiveJournal-esque site devoted to angsty navel-gazing.

Homecoming was last weekend, and I have to say it's one of the better Homecomings of my college experience. Friday I worked 5-9 at the Scotland House and Saturday I worked 10-6. Right around quitting time, Maria and Derek Power (PMA brother, class of '05) came by to say hello and to ask if I wanted to join them at the Daily Grind. So I went straight from the House to the Grind and we spent roughly 5 nanoseconds there, after which Maria and Derek's alumni friends decided they wanted to go to the Green Leafe. Maria and I declined and took a walk around campus instead. After we took a walk and spent some time together she and I went our seperate ways to get dinner. Around 9 or so we rendezvoused with Derek and went to Ryan's house for the PMA Homecoming party. Unfortunately, I didn't bring a camera this time, but any photos I could have taken would have been marred by Eric Yttri's ugly mug, so it's probably better that way. Anyways, we spent the evening drinking whiskey sours and Yuengling lager and telling progressively more tasteless jokes. The kind of jokes that convince you that, upon hearing them, you are most certainly bound for Hell. As Evan Hartman remarked at the end of one particularly vulgar witticism, "All I wanted was a joke--not eternal damnation."

On Sunday, Maria and I spent a long time together making up for all the time we hadn't seen each other this week. I guess things are pretty swell at the moment. I'm not really sure how to to put it into words--after all, this is the first relationship of my maturity, but on the other hand I'm still only 20.5 years old (my half-birthday was four days ago). We're both still figuring things out and sometimes on the Road to Findout you can get really depressed and upset with short-term setbacks and seemingly impassable barriers. I guess I just want to keep my eye on the future enough so that I can remain optimistic without moving into a sort of daydreamy fantasy land where there's too much future-planning and not enough dealing with the issues in front of me. Like PChem, or IA.

Speaking of those two demons, I have a lab in both and a test in the former coming up. So expect to hear from me sometime after Thursday, after the Three Laws of Thermodynamics have robbed me of the majority of my congnitive skills.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

In my hands
A legacy of memories
I can hear you say my name
I can almost see your smile
Feel the warmth of your embrace
But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I love
Is this our farewell?
Sweet darling, you worry too much
My child, see the sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are...

I was very afraid that this was going to happen. That the relationship that I was beginning to treasure and believe in would start to fall apart. And it has...not fallen apart completely, but it is definitely crumbling as I watch.
Maria told me that she was afraid to commit too much because she was uncertain of how our relationship would work out. I told her that I was determined to make it work, that I would do all within my power to make it work and to see it through, because I love her enough to make those kinds of sacrifices men make for the ones that they think are right for them.
But she cannot reciprocate this statement. I told her that if she cannot suspend doubt and uncertainty for hope and faith, then I am not getting what I need out of this relationship, which is a positive outlook on the future. I cannot be part of a relationship in whose future I cannot have any hope.

So here is where I stand. No matter what, I still have Me--something I have a built, a Self, things that I can hold onto through the cold nights where there's not always a happy ending or a deus ex machina to save the day. I never believed that Love wouldn't make me bleed--I just believe that no matter what, I have to stand up again, take care of my wounds, and find meaning again, come what may.

Pray God, give me strength. I haven't always been the best man, or the best Christian, or the best boyfriend. But I have strived to be so, and I will continue to strive to be so. Give me both Your comforting touch and the ability and the awareness to recognize that touch and be healed by it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

This looked kind of fun

My sphere is Guardian (Person of great Love and Altruism), and my class is Defender (Peaceful, yet Potent).

I am a Warden.

To be a Warden is to be the ultimate Guardian. Whether a physical Guardian or an essential Guardian, is up to you. You may be both. To be a physical Guardian is to be a living, breathing testament to the love you carry for a person, or people, whose lives you will always defend if you possibly can. To be an essential Guardian is to be a living, breathing testament to the security that your wards seek, and will look to you for your always kind, always nurturing support.

What kind of Warrior are you?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cloak and Dagger!

Check it out! The infamous Baron Bodissey goes undercover to do his part in uncovering the network of international Jihad. Perhaps in Episode Two, Gryffilion Darkblade can accompany him on his mission...

UPDATES: More info on the Red House compound here; more info on al-Fuqra[n] here. These seem like some pretty bad folks living almost literally in my backyard. Remember: John Allen Muhammad went to these people when the NOI weren't violent or militant enough for his tastes.
Definitely warrants further reconnaissance.

MORE UPDATES (10/15/05): Belmont Club has more on the tactics of Jamaat al-Fuqra here. They may be adept at white collar crime but I wouldn't put it past them to have a stockpile of AK's and TNT, too... hilarious.

Before everyone starts screaming at me for repeating these lyrics, I want you to start humming "Money For Nothing," by the awesome band Dire Straits. Now read the lyrics while singing the words below to that tune.

Now lookie here people
Listen to my story
A little story 'bout a man named Jed
You know something, that poor mountaineer
They say he barely kept his family fed
Now, let me tell you
One day he was shootin'
Old Jed was shootin' at some food
When all of a sudden right up from the ground, there
Well, there came a bubblin' crude
Oil that is--well, maybe you call it
Black gold or Texas tea
He's gonna move next to Mr. Drysdale
And be a Beverly hillbilly
Before you know it, all the kinfolk are a-sayin'
Yeah, buddy, move away from there
That little Clampett got his own cement pond
That little Clampett, he's a millionaire
Now, everyone said Californie
Is the place that you oughta be
We got to load up this here truck now
We got to move to Beverly...

The great thing is, the above satire was done by none other than Weird Al. Which is the first time in history, I believe, that a Jewish rocker has ever been parodied by another Jewish "rocker."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Mathematical Woes

"If I got 100% of my ideas done, I would change the world. If I did something with 99% of my ideas, I would be amazing. If I worked on half my ideas, I'd be a totally fulfilled human being. If I even tried to use a quarter of my ideas, I'd be improving every day. Even if I only acted on one percent of my ideas, my life would be noticeably better. But instead I sit here and calculate percentages."

--Diesel Sweeties
This week we were assigned a dramatic monologue for our poetry class. Professor Burch urged us to read "Home Burial" and "My Last Dutchess" as examples of forms in which we could write. However, I've always had an aversion to long poetry--not necessarily others', but my own. I've found that I always tend to cut myself off fairly quickly because otherwise I kind of ramble off into vague thoughts and jumbled meanings. However, despite the fact that this thing went on for 30+ lines and is in free verse...I'm actually kind of pleased with in it, in a weird way. I mean, I know I've come down pretty hard on free verse in the past, but it has its place. Perhaps its place is when you realize your own limitations and that it's really frikkin' hard to keep meter and rhyme for a full forty lines or so. (Although I did it in the sestina.)
Anyways. If I'm ever a famous poet (ha) and get into the Norton Anthology, I suppose there will be a little asterisk above the title with a subsequent footnote explaining the legend of the Crim Dell Bridge; that is, a couple walks across the bridge together and kiss in the middle. After they cross they have to get married. If they break the engagement, one of them has to throw the other off the bridge. With that rather morbid intro, here it is:

Forty Years Later

The reunion's loud and boisterous but
He's quiet, standing on the bridge,
Alone in thoughts he hasn't had
In quite some time. A flick, a snap,
A spark, and then a flame--he breathes
A plume of smoke into the autumn air.
Hello, Mark. I didn't know you liked cigars.
He turns, surprised, but doesn't let it show.
I don't; Charlie gave it to me. Remember Charlie?
He's the one that got into a fistfight, freshman year.
Took three cops to hold him down.
She laughs and tilts her face towards him
The way she used to on those winter nights
With cups of cocoa, wool blankets, and bare feet
And laughter and the soft weight of her head against his chest.
So what have you been up to, Carol? I heard you and Jim--
She frowns. Jim and I split up ten years ago.
What do you care anyway?
You weren't even at our wedding. Why didn't you come?
He flicks his ash into the glassy mirror of the pond,
Takes a deep puff. Because I was in jail.
She stares. You what?
He laughs, but starkly. After I got your invitation
I went on a bender that lasted three days
And landed me in the tank. Otherwise, I would've come.
She's silent for a moment;
He chews the cigar in restless thought,
A heavy veil of nothing-left-to-say between them.
So, did you ever throw Jim off the bridge?
She laughs again, relieved,
And comes to stand beside him. No, of course not.
Don't tell me you believed that old cliche.
He smiles. Some cliches are worth believing.
She hugs his arm, and presses close. I thought you were a realist,
A cynic, a man grown old before his time?
He pats her hand. Even old men and curmudgeons
Get to be sentimental every once in a while.
She tugs at his sleeve gently.
Come back to the party, Mark, to the people you used to know,
The people you used to be able to remember.
He lets her lead him off the bridge
But stops her as they step onto solid ground:
We crossed it, Carol.
Do you think it's the last bridge
We'll ever cross together?
She turns her head and smiles
A smile of years gone by.
Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hegelian musings on a Saturday evening

(A continuation of the ramblings I had sometime last spring)

In one of the "Ender's Shadow" books, Orson Scott Card makes the assertion that Adam and Eve had the option of choosing Knowledge or Life; thus, in choosing Knowledge, they brought mortality and death upon the world. However, it is important to note that without the concept of mortality and death (or rather, Life and not-Life), we would have a very different concept of Negation. Indeed, in eating the fruit, Eve became aware of Right and Not-Right. Going naked was Not-Right, and thus shame was born into the world. Clothing one's nakedness was Right, and thus a sense of morality was born into the world. These seemingly simple acts set in motion the fundamental dichotomy that we as humans deal with everyday: X and not-X.

This isn't meant as a reducitivist treatise; I don't believe every action or situation or behavior can be fundamentally reduced, either transcendentally or eidetically, to an X or a not-X. However, I do believe that in Genesis, we see the makings of the human character as well as the human situation. In an exceprt from Hegel's preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit:

"The living substance, further, is that being which is truly subject, or, what is the same thing, is truly realized and actual solely in the process of positing itself, or in mediating with its own self its transitions from one state or position to the opposite. As subject it is pure and simple negativity, and just on that account a process of splitting up what is simple and undifferentiated, a process of duplicating and setting factors in opposition..."

One of the most fundamental human functions or programs (from a math/CS point of view) is our proclivity towards settings things in opposition to each other, thus forming a framework of reference. If we knew that X is not-Y and that Y is Z, then we know that X is not-Z and that not-X could, possibly, be Z. So, for instance, we know that circular objects are "not"-square and that square things tend to have angles, so therefore we could suppose with some assurance that "not"-circular objects have angles of some sort. In this way, we approach all things that disturb, fascinate, or intrigue us, as a way of building a larger sense of where we are. (Written another way, this could be seen as "Man's Search For Meaning.")
This pattern becomes quite complex when turned inward. I never really thought about setting factors in opposition internally until I finished my paper on Freud's "Fort-Da" game. However, turning this framework inward is ultimately flawed, in the same way that it is extremely difficult to perform an appendectomy on oneself: we are too close to our own knots of pain and repressed feeling to allow our frameworks to fully include those things we find too frightening to deal with. This weakens the infrastructure of the perceptions we have about ourselves, and makes us blind to our weaknesses and internal sufferings.
It is true that we set things in opposition within ourselves, though; without that fundamental opposition, our mental processes would not exist. Wherever, in nature, there are two systems which are exist as antipodal to one another, energy of some sort results from their interaction. This can be seen in the the voltage batteries discharge across RC circuits, the generation of magnetic fields, and the movement of charged particles across electric fields. This opposition occurs in the most fundamental of objects, the atom; without the X (proton) and the not-X (electron) being set in opposition to one another, the framework of our entire universe would not be as it is. What it would be, I am not qualified to say, since I'm not sure if anyone knows what would happen if atomic and subatomic motion ceased to be.
I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to tie this into, except maybe to reassure myself that without these Negations and the realm of the Negative as powerful forces within the human world, that it would be impossible to achieve anything. Even with the stress and hardship that comes from setting things in opposition to each other, there has to be some way of generating vitality, that life energy that can be described by no scientific formula or equation but exists just as surely as the laws for electronics and magnetism do. Though we are unable to quantize this energy, we realize its potential, and perhaps in our search for meaing and in building our frameworks we seek to understand it better.
Or maybe it's just me, and I'm the only twenty year old who really cares enough and has so little to do on a weekend that he sits around combing metaphysics, psychology, and quantum mechanics.