Bear with me

Did you know that the discipline of experimental philosophy (or “X-Phi” if you’re in a hurry) has its own emblem, like Special Forces or The Illuminati? It’s an armchair in flames (something about philosophers needing to get out more). I’m designing one in glass for a friend who’s a practicing philosopher, that rarest of species. Except not flaming, I guess—just the chair (as a born contrarian, he’s well-suited to his field).

I’m contemplating projects to respark my joie de vivre and mining for inspiration in word art: Ed Ruscha, Raymond Pettibon and Jenny Holzer, new names as well. My riff might have a stained glass angle, though maybe not (man, stained glass typography—there’s a niche in desperate need of rehabilitation).

Back on the philosophy tip, my personal one is up in the air right now. So I’m especially receptive to Making-Sense-of-Life Lessons like DFW’s mega-circulated and recently published Commencement Speech to Kenyon College. Garden-variety empathy as a cardinal virtue? That I can do.

Meanwhile, my media diet for May—Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, We Shall Remain on PBS and the late-run of Gran Torino at the Riverview—is telling me that we’re all just flotsam swatted about by forces much greater than ourselves.

What if employment (and other forms of membership I don’t go in for right now) is what binds us to these forces? Like if you’re not banding together to make the movement, you’re just being moved. To be independent, then, is to risk irrelevance. You look only to yourself for value, without a handbook (or holy book or brand book) when you come up lacking.

You gotta write your own manifesto. Pay your own FICA. Empty your own garbage. Order your own business cards. For 30 more years? Unfathomable.

Sorry. Cue the movies of music:

Kate Stelmanis – Join Us

Micachu & the Shapes – Lips

The Fall – Totally Wired (live in NYC, 1981)

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3 comments
  1. Marc said:

    Interesting that you summed up the meaning of DFW’s address as “[g]arden-variety empathy as a cardinal virtue.” I agree, that’s part of it. But in the larger sense, he seemed to me to be imploring his young audience to make a life-long habit of consciously choosing to think counter to the human defaults of selfishness and boredom — to, in essence, practice philosophy in their daily lives.

  2. Jake said:

    Yeah, I guess I made his speech sound a bit trivial, which it isn’t. I was trying to convey my relief that being a good and consciencious person might really be as simple as thinking charitably about others.

  3. lyolm said:

    happy bear with me.

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