Dada reminds me of Buddhism, as Tzara says. the rest is sauce. But language gets in the way here, as it does in Buddhism, as it does in postmodernism, as it does with ethics. Once we put something into words it is as if we make a system of it, and Like Kierkegaard and DaDa contend, “I am against systems, the most acceptable system is on principle to have none.”

It is because we can only know the world through words (or more generally any kind of sign system) which is why the DaDA manifesto is so inspiring and makes me want to drop out of school and go line on New York City streets and be an artist of the absurd because, “I detest greasy objectivity, and harmony, the science that finds everything in order.. . . Science says we are the servants of nature”

But then I read Eliot and I am reminded that I want to study literature instead.

These DaDa ideals don’t seem too much of a stretch from the Imagist idea of wanting (like the Haiku) to have poetry that paints a picture with words, a picture of the thing itself using words without decoration, without any kind of flair, but rather to use words to simply describe the object, objectively, which is noble, but then we are back to the problem with words, which are always already in slippage and can never simply just describe an object. In terms of DaDa, the use of simplistic language might be appealing, but I would guess that DaDa would think that the Imagist use of language was too “rational”—and sp, of course, they would cut up the words, put them in a hat, and pick the words out at random to make a new poem.

To go back to Eliot, I believe that in light of “Journey of the Magi” that “Prufrock” can be read as a Christian poem about a man vacillating about telling society the religious message he has. For me though, personally, I keep going back to the poem because for me, on a simpler level, the poem has always been about the vacillation itself. I remember first reading this poem and being so confused, and in a way, this poem led me to be an English major.

Now, as I read the poem, I relate to it. It seems a real existential dilemma: how do I make sense of life as I grow old ( I grow old/ I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled… and Do I dare to eat a peach), of a life I have ‘measured out in coffee spoons’? For Kierkegaard, every choice we make is a leap (because every choice is ultimately just as “rational” as any other choice we make); therefore, for Kierkegaard, the leap is in making a choice, and there is always anxiety in all choices because we can never know how things would have turned out if we made the opposite choice, and this seems to be Prufrock’s anxiety in the poem; this is the reason he can’t even feel as if he is the star of his own life since he is “not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.”

I believe this is why I am constantly drawn to this poem—because, especially as an English major, sometimes I wonder if I haven’t lingered in the chambers of the sea too long, and I am worried that human voices are going to wake me and drown me, but this again brings me back to the DaDa-ist, who remind me not to take life too seriously, and that literature is what matters because “the rest is sauce.”

…I have none.

I have never identified with anything too closely for too long. It seems that I have always felt the outsider, even among friends and even with family. I don’t know if it was (is) just some romantic notion on my part, or if there is more there. I have always felt adrift in life.

— on a side note, I believe this to be one of my failures in relationships with women. I, now, understand Woody Allen’s use of the Marx joke that he would never join a club that would have him as a member, but I also think that this has to do with desire and how desire works. We always want what we can’t have; anyway, this is a huge digression and fodder for another post later–

Now, though, as I am older, and now as I find myself in the midst of so many people so different from me, I find myself latching on to “identity.” This is the first time since my early teens that I find myself among people with completely different background; the first time I find myself the minority in a really really long time. And now, maybe because of this, maybe because of nostalgia, maybe because I hate when people “outside” try to speak to something you know so intimately, I find myself “identifying” with my old “home.”

I suddenly feel myself more Cuban and from Miami than ever. Although in the past, it didn’t really matter to me. I spent a lot of my early twenties trying to “find myself”- trying to reach some kind of at-one-ment, whole(ness), but then I found Eastern thought, which began to put cracks in that idea. Why was it I wanted to identify so much with something? What kind of completeness could I find or even fulfill? I began to realize that the idea was to realize that there is no wholeness or completeness; I realized that that idea was a delusion, it was an attachment I had to this life, it was a delusion that leads to material pain, and that I had to get it out of my head.

Once in grad school, I began to read more philosophy concerning this aspect of identity. If words were never fully present, and words were the only way to know anything, then how could I ever be present to myself, much less to an other? Once again, I began to shake off ideas of identity and embrace a Albert Camusian idea of the absurdity of life (and even with a God, I still couldn’t see knowing what the “meaning” was, so I was still left in a meaningless world) and I embraced at least knowing that the world is absurd, that I have no identity, and that I could still be freely happy.

And yet, I just responded to someone who posted an article from a socialist magazine praising and defending the Cuban government. My response was then responded to by someone telling me that “I didn’t know shit about Cuba”- which, I think, is kind of funny. Because in a sense, I don’t know shit about Cuba, but then again, do I know more about Cuban living in a Cuban culture, having Cuban parents and family, hearing stories from people who have been in Cuba, than some white kid from Tennessee? But why do I care? That is the real question…

I am never going to convince this gringo that what Castro and the Cuban government has done to its people is a crime against humanity, and he certainly will never convince me that the Cuban government is in any way, shape, or form good or right. Additionally, I don’t even identify with being Cuban because all I know of Cuban is the second hand stories I get from family that lived there years and years ago.

Yet again, though, it made me angry. It really got under my skin that some dude, out there, so rudely attacked my beliefs, which is why I never get involved in these conversations about politics or religion because they usually end badly.

The other thing that happened though is that while I never though of myself in any political terms/identity, I find myself more and more drawn to ethics specifically, and more generally politics. A part of me feels that if I am going to be in school for these many years learning stuff that some of the stuff I learn should be an ethics and a politic.

I browsed my modest library of books and am drawn to wanting to read Reinaldo Arenas’s Before Night Falls; I also want to read Jose Marti poetry, and I want to become better educated about the past and what happened in Cuba… I feel a pull towards these things that “should” define me. Now that I am away from it, I feel more Cuban than ever. It would surprise me if there is a single Cuban (and maybe 2 Spanish speakers in total) in all of the English graduate program here…

So fine, maybe I don’t know a heck of a whole lot about Cuba (because I was born in California and went to high school in Miami), but, I think i know a little more than “shit” about it…

I have this idea that all of life is about interpretation. No matter what the situation, you decide (decide is not the right word, but it is the first word that comes to mind)– or maybe society or culture conditions you– how you are going to interpret that situation. This is seen all the time. When some people have a break up, they can get over it quickly and move on to someone else while others brood and cry about the break up.

All situations are seen like this. This is what all those new age writers and all this positive thinking, imagine-your-goal-and-you’ll-achieve-it crap is all about, which to an extent, I guess, is true (not the you can will what you want “the secret” crap, but the stuff about you decide how to react (interpret) any situation in life.

It seems this goes back to Kierkegaard a great deal. I see his influence in Heidegger’s they-self, in Sartre’s anxiety, in Camus’s interpretation of Sisyphus. Looking at the post in which Cornell West talks about philosophy as a preparation for death, meditations on death, on living a life which will make us not fear death– this is all seen in Kierkegaard, except K was much to melancholic. K believes that the freedom to chose gives us a feeling of dread because we always know that this choice can have far reaching effects.

For K, it is our responsibility to break out of the crowd by making our own choices and not letting the crowd tell us what to do. If we let others decide for us, if we follow the crowd, then there is always an excuse when things go wrong. To go back to that awful “secret” crap– if things go wrong, it is because you didn’t desire, or positively think about the thing you wanted enough– there is always a scapegoat with these systems, which is why K hated all systems. This idea of one having to make one’s own choices, choices which once made mean people, including yourself, can get hurt, your life can be ruined, other’s lives can be ruined, is an overwhelming responsibility, which is why this leads to dread.

I think Palahniuk really captures that feeling, even taking some of his quotes out of context (the quotes are in context though, within this discussion):

“People don’t want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.”

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.”

“You must realize that one day you will die. Until then you are worthless.”

“Reality means you live until you die. The real truth is nobody wants reality”

“More and more, it feels like I’m doing a really bad impersonation of myself.”

Ok, I need to get back to reading…

ohhh… but before I forget– this is Dread and Happiness…

Why doesn’t K, after being haunted by his father and his religious culture not see that he is free to decide his life? Sure, he made a mistake that ruined some poor girl (for a little while) and ruined his own life since he forever pined after her, but he does realize that there is no system out there controlling him and telling him what to do. This is why I think that all of life is interpretation. It seems to be that being freed of such a constraining life would be a happy moment, but K was always shadowed by Dread, but I choosing can be a good thing, I think even if there are all those possible bad outcomes.

Today, I talked to my mentor at USF. Schools assign mentors to people like me coming into a program to show us the rope. We talked for a bit and he seems like a nice enough guy. We are going to meet tomorrow for lunch, and then he is going to show me around campus, and on Tuesday I am sitting in on a class. I don’t care all too much to sit in on a class, but I got nothing to do. Then on Wednesday, I plan on going to Marco Island for a couple of days to hang with the family. Again, I don’t really want to drive three hours, but I am not doing much around here.

I went to a new cafe today in the trendy Hyde Park Village. It had too much of a snobby vibe for me. Although, it does seem to have some nice eateries and is only 5 minutes away. We’ll see how things go.

At the cafe I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Tell All. This book is, at best, mildly entertaining. There are no characters to care for, the plot is moving along really slowly, there are flashbacks that seem to tell nothing. I understand Palahniuk wanting to veer from the formula he followed from Invisible Monsters, Fight Club, Diary, Choke, Survivor et. al.. He had that fast paced style, all action, constantly moving the story, with twist endings, but lately, he is challenging narrative forms, which while commendable, I feel, isn’t working.

Half way through the novel, the plot is trite and boring (very not like Chuck). The story is told from the personal assistant of Miss Kathie Kenton. The assistant seems to have a weird, obsessive thing about her boss. But that is all I got so far. No real action, no real suspense, no real emotion– not even Palahniuk’s trademark analysis or critique of some type or other of societal norms. I guess, in the background, it can be said that the novel is critiquing societies obsession with celebrities and celebrities’ lives, as well as making society look at its fascination with “reality t.v.”, this drive and desire to see it all. But, that is stretching it…

I am mildly entertained– this is more of a beach read than the Palahniuk of old. Hopefully, all this experimenting with narrative form will eventually lead to something substantial. Palahniuk came close to it in Pygmy and there are moments of it in Snuff, but I miss reading a Palahniuk book and not being able to put it down.