Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tempering My Youth: Getting Ready to Kiss My 20's Good-bye!

As I am approaching 30, I often ponder over how I both intentionally and unintentionally strive to preserve, cultivate, and seek youth, or “youth” as such, an imagined ideal of it. I strive for youthfulness (though part of what defines youthfulness is its un-self-consciousness), to maintain substantial physical and mental energy in and for life. I am not talking about botox or diets, but rather inner-youthfulness: I envision having not just a wellness of being, but a sense of vitality, radiance, and passion in my life. I crave that sense of fullness, of seeing life as beautiful, exciting, and ripe with possibility and the future, with no immediate urgency or even desire to settle down or figure things out, but to just be happy in the moment, in the present. But do I feel that now? That happiness and sense of joie de vivre? I am not exactly sure that I can give a resounding yes.

Especially as I am about to end my decade-long experience of being in my 20’s, I am conscious of how my age and cultural experiences have defined how I perceive myself and my life. Living in NYC has helped me draw out that sense of being forever young, forever charmed by the sense of limitless possibilities, distractions, and directions. Perhaps I have let NYC preserve me as a sort of adult child, having refused thus far to focus long-term on one full-time career or romantic partner. Funny, it seems as suddenly, in the flash of seven years of living in New York, I now see my 20’s and NYC as cohorts, each part angel and part devil, fostering and enabling this love-hate addiction to so-called youthfulness.

As I approach 30, I hear increasingly that things start getting calmer and one starts to feel more grounded and less pressured to be forever socializing, exploring, and partying and rather begins to forge roots and stability. These latter ideas, mind you, I have dreaded and derided for most of my life; I have equated being grounded with feeling suffocated. And yet, I am finding now that the freedom, the lack of anchor, has actually been stifling other parts of myself, that all my indulgences may be causing other parts of myself to atrophy. So here I am, determined to happily kiss my 20's goodbye, determined to find more stability, to apply myself more fully and to seek some grounding. NYC, I hear you offer a lot of opportunities in those departments as well.

Funny, the New York Times just had an essay, "What Is It About 20-Somethings?" that discusses this very phenomenon, the new prolonged youth that endures through the 20's, and even the proposition that the 20's is a separate growth stage, one of "emerging adulthood." And so, I am hoping to emerge as a more mature adult, one who knows how to temper my youthfulness with a more well-developed, balanced perspective.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fringe, Madness and Civilization

Today I went to see "Have a Nice Life," a play that was part of the NYC Fringe Festival currently going on, a festival that immodestly calls itself "NYC's best staycation." A play in the style of musical theater, "Have a Nice Life" featured a cast of characters in group therapy, their issues and their reactions to each other.

I was skeptical at first, not sure what I had gotten myself into, but as the characters and scenarios became gradually quirkier and more humorous, I found myself both amused and contemplative, marks of an enjoyable and worthwhile, if somewhat absurd, play.

Fittingly and coincidentally (or was it, entirely?), I found myself perusing old writing today, both my private reflections and academic papers. I leave you with this excerpt of a paper I wrote:

"The Complicity of Madness and Reason: An Analysis of Derrida and Foucault"

The critique given in Jacques Derrida’s essay, “Cogito and the History of Folly,” of Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization offers a complex interpretation of language and philosophy in relation to madness and reason. Language, or logos, Derrida argues, is necessarily a construction of reason that is bounded by its objectivist cultural legacy and is therefore unable to grasp its precursor, counterpart, or excess: madness.

Madness and reason, yoked at origin by the moment of decision, have actually never severed their intimate relations and are not such opposing concepts as our culture maintains. Derrida himself acknowledges that Foucault, in his mad desire (so-called “mad” by Derrida himself) to archeologize silence/madness itself (35-36), has somehow succeeded in breaking the constraining reason that language is bounded by, through somehow approximating and detailing madness to make its history knowable. Derrida writes that Foucault creates a discourse of a “language without support” that receives no reliance upon absolute reason. (38) This ability to communicate outside of reason, to exist textually in this liminal state between reason and madness (which is itself silent) is based on the moment of decision, Derrida argues. It is this crucial moment of decision, a moment free from reason that is only subsequently rationalized, that points to the intimacy, and even inseparability, of madness and reason.

The decision, Derrida writes, “through a single act, links and separates reason and madness” (38). The common root of reason and madness is a fundamental binary that has simultaneously exiled madness from our culture yet maintained it as a necessary part of culture and history itself. History is, similarly to language, defined by its exclusion of madness, and actually made possible by madness (42). Madness, this indescribable, liberalized state free from the constraints of language and reason, is yet held in check by its opposition to such principles – reason and language – in a symmetry of economy. The permeation of madness, yet with equaled silence about it, begs the question to what degree this binary between madness and reason is itself a false construction.

Indeed, Derrida acknowledges as the essay develops that philosophy most resembles madness, as he writes: “And philosophy is perhaps the reassurance given against the anguish of being mad at the point of greatest proximity to madness” (59). This proximity of reason and madness causes a questioning of this supposed binary system entirely. If madness and reason stem from the same root, are both modes of human cognition, and reason and language are protectionist measures against this madness that yet succeeds to persevere in human culture, then at what point is the distinction false? Where does pure reason end and pure madness begin; and how does their proximity call for the invention of a new, multi-focal, non-binary mode of thinking? Derrida’s conclusion that the crises of reason are in complicity with the crises of madness points specifically to the interdependence and similarity in human culture of madness and reason, an interdependence that is becoming increasingly inescapable in contemporary culture.

Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. “Cogito and the History of Madness.” Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization.New York: Vintage Books, 1965.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Last Supper - Celebration of Food and Art

I am on the tail-end of my vacation in D.F., Mexico City, but still keeping my eye on events in NYC...

This event is appropriate to my travels here and my personal and academic interest in cultural geography, urban community and social theory!

Brought to you by 3rd Ward,

The Last Supper // An unforgettable celebration of food & art, benefiting the Food Bank for NYC

Saturday, September 18, 4 p to 2 a, 195 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY, $10 with 3+ donated cans to The Food Bank for NYC, or $15 without cans.

Lose yourself in the stimulating, multi-sensory experience that is The Last Supper Festival. For one celebratory night in the crux of Summer and Fall, 3rd Ward will offer a true feast for the senses, blending film, edible artwork, music, writing, and food – all addressing the complex act of consumption.

Over 50 creators will converge in this indoor-outdoor salon to capture the dialogue between our generation and the media, products, and technology of our beautiful, borderless world. All proceeds will benefit the Food Bank for NYC.

For more information about The Last Supper and the exhibiting artists, visit http://www.3rdward.com/special-events/the-last-supper-festival-2010.html

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Mid-20's Reverie on Time

I just (re)discovered a published reflection of mine on life, time and identity.

Check it out! "A Mid-20's Reverie on Time"