Friday, May 29, 2015

Jokes as Entertainment & Entertainment as Reassurance

I'm trying to figure out why we are so obsessed with finding some deeper sense of self in life. We have created this. It is a perverse rite of passage that has been crafted over time. It is almost as if when a child hits a certain pre-pubescent age they must immediately begin to foster doubt, storing it away so that they can obsess over it as soon as they hit puberty. Furthermore, that is what every teenager is told about college and adulthood, that they’re required then to go on a grandiose search. The run of the mill, coming of age years were created mostly by the entertainment industry. This concept is not meant to demean anyone. There are certainly folks who deal with strife and have to overcome it, but that does not mean every person must wrestle with inner demons. You are not broken if you simply exist. In ‘Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness’ David Foster Wallace hits the nail on the head, as he often did: “The horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.” It is a vicious cycle. All of this just to meet some predetermined objective. Is it possible that maybe we are not all special snow flakes? It sounds cynical, I’m aware. But honestly, can’t we all just exist? We all want to be bigger, smarter, stronger, more attractive, and most of all we want to be well liked.

Being well liked doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m sure that isn’t a believable statement to many but it is true. Sure, there is the burst of excitement when someone shows interest, but after the jolt turns to tingles and then disappears all together it only becomes tedious. There is so much expectation that comes along with human interaction. For example, even the smallest one, how fucked up does it feel when you lag back an extra moment to hold open the door for a stranger and they do not say thank you or even acknowledge your existence? That is expectation strangling us, leaving our necks spurned with black and blue resentment. I hate any expectation. The pressure is as unbearable for me as a plane ride with no chewing gum next to a screaming baby. It is in my experience that I often rise to the occasion when pushed into action but I hate meeting it. My loved ones have likened it to some kind of psychopath behavior. I will hate every moment of things but damn it, I’ll be good at it and use it to my advantage. This might be my entire life in a nutshell. I tend to joke with others about how I hate people despite my various social skills. This is almost worse than having no social skills at all. It is like having some gift you certainly do not want. A lot of money has been made with superhero stories similar to that premise. I would gladly relinquish the power if I could. But I cannot. So I fight expectation and I stress over remaining solitary. It is essential to my survival.

The world could be a calmer place if we were a little more concerned with meeting our own goals, not the ones others regulate. I wonder what it would be like to live a life in which you did not worry about what another would think. Dreaming is a powerful tool. Success only comes when it is paired with the idea that any dream is worth pursuing. We will not all become uber successful entertainers, or leaders of countries, or rich business investors, or famous athletes. A lot of us will do seemingly mundane work but it does not diminish your worth. It is okay to be ordinary. What is ordinary to one may be extraordinary to another.

But this soapbox is a little high for my liking. It is my own crank psychoanalyzing at play here. I only share this diatribe out frustration. Maybe it is all too frank but maybe that is what I need more of. This week I joked that I had finally become a writer because I received a rejection letter. My own humor trying snuff out insecurities. In the same piece by David Foster Wallace he explains that “our culture has trained to see jokes as entertainment and entertainment as reassurance.” Maybe that is what all of this is: reassurance. In the absence of confidence there are only words.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Infinite Summer Revisited

In 2009 some folks made a lovely website dedicated to reading David Foster Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest. Infinite Summer broke down the beastly 1000+ page novel over parts of four months. The website also featured links to glossaries, guides, and essays on the novel. I've decided to revisit Infinite Summer and tackle it myself (along with some friends.) I'm inviting everyone to join in with me. The book can be purchased on Amazon for just under $14 in paperback or $10 for kindle. I've revised their schedule to start on June 1st and ending on September 1st. I'll be blogging some about it here, but also tweeting about it as well. My twitter handle is @kaityballgame. Shoot me a tweet if you decide to join in.

To get started, read over this guide on How to Read Infinite Jest from the aforementioned Infinite Summer. I'll be posting a list of various websites I find helpful over time.

It will be a big task but I'm excited to get started.

Revised calendar:

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*Featured photo belongs to Corrie Baldauf.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Void

"Where did it go?" I asked the void. The only reply I hear is a sinister laugh, deep and saturated. This is how it works, unfortunately. There is this giant void; it is as deep as it is wide. It is dark and thick, like trudging through miles of Florida swampland. You never can actually see the ever-elusive light on the other side. More times than not I am convinced that it doesn't exist. It is a pinprick in the grand scheme. We do not find it; we stumble upon it by chance like fools. The void doesn't do a damn thing to lend a helping hand, and why should it? I let myself lapse into an unexceptional zone. This is on me completely. The zone is teeming with excuses and doubt. Fear is the path to the dark side, as they say in Star Wars. Or it is the path to the void in my case, at least. Slowly but surely the void thins out over time, as it has every instance before. But one of these days I fear it will not. It is all time lost. I then mourn the wasted potential of time-gone bye. It will not rest in peace. It will linger, serving as a reminder of my inadequacy. At least for today the void is nowhere to be found and pen has found its way to paper.

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