Category Archives: Crazy Ideas

Trauma as a Force of Liberation (DF)

I noticed that in my favorite movies and TV show, the main character is often a person leading a double life—”The Family Man,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” any of the Bourne thrillers…

The internal life and external life–or secret life and public life–intersect, or collide, to create drama. But as a trope, why is it so effective at creating drama? 

Option: Because I identify with those characters. And why would I do that? Because I feel like I’m leading a secret life? That could make sense: there is the ever present internal life that everybody struggles to express, with or without knowing, through personality. But I don’t think so. It’s because I don’t feel like I’m leading a secret life. I love, as all audiences love, watching a timid character find strength in the traumas of his secret life (his alternate identity has allowed him to assume a different personality without appearing schizoid). It’s even more thrilling to watch the character apply his new strength to his public life–watching him be liberated from his old timidity, as though the real fantasy was not of secrecy, but of exposure. Not that the secret be exposed, but that the hidden personality be exposed. Anger, frustration, violence, profanity–all suppressed according to a gentler, social code of conduct. It signifies the emergence of the Id, I guess. 

The fantasy is that trauma leads to liberation, Continue reading


Cubism v. Kandinsky’s Abstract Expressionism, DFW, and De Certeau (JR)

The best intellectual moments I’ve had come from a mixing of disciplines. Maybe the first times I really felt this is freshman year of college, taking English Literature courses, Economics, third-year Calculus, and a seminar on the last 100 years in Germany. Keith Gessen recently mentioned the parallel development of literature in a piece on DFW, “In the 1920s you have your Russian modernists and your Anglo-American modernists and German modernists, and they’re all very much alike but that makes sense because they knew each other and all read the same books, but you’ll also, if you look, find Bulgarian modernists and Portuguese modernists, and so on.” What’s always fascinated me is the zeitgeist carries across disciplines as well — modernism, for example, doesn’t just refer to thematically unlinked movements in different disciplines; modernism is a term that gets at something essential underlying intellectual pursuits from math to literature to philosophy to economics.
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Hemingway (DF)

If life is a rehearsal for which there is no performance, as Kundera says, then every moment that passes represents a missed opportunity. And the loneliness of that sentiment forms our capacity to be nostalgic for our own dreams, for times we didn’t live in.

Stories give us the opportunity to reclaim some of those moments—not by analysis, since to look is to touch (as Camus and Schrödinger would have it)—but by reliving them. We benefit even if the moment is relived in exact duplicate, since there’s no risk of a meaningful moment passing unnoticed. This time, set down in a more permanent medium, the moment is preserved. We can relive it endlessly and at will. The more accurately is it is preserved, the more directly it can be experienced, and the more satisfying it is to do so.

Which is probably why stories exist: as handholds by which we cling to the fragility of an ever-passing life. Continue reading

This is a story I want to talk about

This is a story I want to talk about quite a lot, but it’s late, so I’ll just post it, and we’ll all talk about it later.

An Italian Tourist in Baghdad.

appreciating the finer points of disaster

The economists didn’t just single out the U.S. for criticism; 70% of participants said the response of governments around the world to the global recession has been inadequate. “The Europeans or Japanese don’t seem to be doing near enough to kickstart their economies,” said Nariman Behravesh of IHS Global Insight. “It could be we’ve done all the right things, but the rest of the world goes down the tubes.” (WSJ)

Even as the numbers rise, the numbers fall. As the numbers fall, so the numbers rise. On one side, too little is being done. On another, too much. Between all of them, I sense a fog disappearing, a growing perversity—as if, secretly, this was starting to look more like an opportunity than a disaster. Continue reading

Guess who?

“In addition to the term ‘complex’, **** also coined those of the ‘collective unconscious’ and the ‘archetype’.”

Before I go any further, I have to mention that these are key terms in modern usage. “Collective unconscious” and “archetype” might be a little… precious, but think of how often you hear that someone has a “Napoleon Complex,” or an “Oedipus Complex.” Maybe I keep odd company, but I would suggest that it is also common to create descriptions of new “complexes” in conversation.

It makes me want to investigate exactly what it is I am talking about when I say “complex.”

“Specific contents of the collective subconscious were, he considered, archetypal images, such as the ‘Great mother’, the ‘Serpent’ or the ‘Shadow’. On his ethnological expeditions, **** had observed that these images occur in all cultures and must therefore be anchored in the human brain.”

Then he has to go and claim something like this, which is a little troublesome and disconnected. Continue reading

Ghost Stories

In honor of Halloween, I have two ghost stories, which is a little odd because I don’t  believe in ghosts in the first place. They both happened to me during the summer two years ago, just after I’d moved to New York.

The first thing was, one night I woke up because there was an old woman, a crone, standing at the end of my bed. She was wearing a brimmed hat and held her hands lax in front of her chest, like a cartoon dinosaur. She was mostly scary because she was so old. I should note that while I’m a total coward if given the chance to think, when startled I tend to go on the attack. So I sat up and demanded to know what she was doing there, like an imperious crazy person, and then watched her fade  away. I knew, even though my eyes were still open, that I was dreaming. She dissolved like sugar in tea. But if I believed in ghosts, I guess I would have believed that I’d seen one then.

The second story is about something that happened about a month later when I went to see an art exhibit in the East Village called “Strange Powers.” The exhibit was all about supernatural phenomena, so there was a framed curse — “do something evil” — hanging on the wall, and boring photographs of people’s auras, and a little headphones station where you could listen to records of ghosts, although when I tried them on it seemed to just be static and people speaking in German. German, I’m sorry, is a scary language to hear if you’re not well-prepared. Continue reading