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Alexander the Less
Participant
  • Type: NeFi
  • Development: llll
  • Attitude: Unseelie

I’ve felt ill today, and I wrote part of this after a 5-hour nap; however, this somehow feels like the most open and honest I’ve been in a while.

Please forgive any mistakes and my long-windedness.


1. What are you interested in…? (name as many things as you’d like, and how you came across these interests)

I think the best summary of the corpus of my interests is how to live well, and by that I mean live in a way that is meaningful and satisfying (and please don’t read that as happy, because satisfaction can find itself in misery when appropriately applied and felt).

So the biggest interest on the list is philosophy, especially existentialism. Top three favorite thinkers of all time are Camus, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. I came across really digging into philosophy after spending about 2 years as a Reformed Baptist (hardcore into determinism, Calvinism, dogmatic to a fault), and all the evidence in the way I lived and thought, from my perspective, pointed to that of a damned person (2017/18). I knew I was going to hell, and I knew God wanted me there. Otherwise I’d be a better person. I decided to lean into that and consider myself agnostic, to allow myself to be uncertain (something that was kicked off by my taking a literature class on E. L. Doctorow, a Postmodernist). I started looking at knowledge, how I knew what I knew, and it was more clear than ever that I knew nothing.

I was a fairly ardent nihilist, and the absurdists/proto-absurdists helped me make peace with uncertainty, to just believe and be at peace with knowledge being a colossal web we construct for ourselves, a web that floats down a river, prone to be ripped apart by the slightest breeze, yet somehow strong enough to bear our weight.

Apart from philosophy, I love art, perhaps my next greatest interest. I fell in love with art when I took my first art appreciation class (2013/14) because I had to pick between it and music appreciation…. I foolishly said, “Well I already appreciate music enough.” Still, those foolish words led to me to learn the powerful ways in which art can communicate meaning to us. I fell in love with Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Surrealism, Dadaism, Abstract Modernism, and Modernism (I love it all, really). At that point I wanted to become a curator and change my major to Art History.

I love Anthropology, something I declared as my minor after they told my I couldn’t design a Humanities minor by combining Art, History, and Religion coursework (2016). It’s because I wanted to find and appreciate every form of expression I could find. Every culture expresses, and I find all expressions, even the darkest, incredibly important. Why? Because every expression is where the ritual of meaning-making takes place. Holy sites across the world and in every place amongst every people where someone tried to get what is happening inside outside. Like a blessed communion where the ineffable elements of one person is given to others by the shared partaking of a part of themselves.

 

I have a lot of other things to answer and seemingly endless interests…. I’m going to move on.

 

2. What are you knowledgeable in? What have you studied and why did you choose to study that?

I’m a rhetorician, less so in the sense of oration (something else I considered) and more in terms of theory. I study rhetoric, and every rhetorician defines it differently. My personal definition is, “Any instance of formulating, transferring, and/or interpreting meaning.”

As my mentor and I put it, “Rhetoric is everything.”

My personal work focused on hate speech, digital spaces, epideictic rhetoric as a bonding tool for groups, belief, and education (I’m always too eager to talk about these things, so feel free to ask).

I was initially in literature and language, but after taking a Literary Theory and Criticism class, I realized that the rhetoricians, those breaking down language more “up-close and personally” where who we had to thank for our methods as literary scolars. So I switched teams as I entered into the Master’s program.

 

3. What’s your preferred way of answering questions? (i.e. epistemology)

I know everyone comes to a conversation with a head full of their personally curated “language.” Because of that, I always try to approach serious conversations (sometimes the casual ones too) by getting to the root of our definitions. If we all come to the table with a different language, a productive and meaningful conversation is never going to happen (did I mention that I love Wittgenstein?).

I tend to “manage” terms throughout a conversation by often asking what is meant by a certain word, shifting my own definitions around, and sometimes offering new language to help myself and my conversational partner better discuss whatever is on the table.

I also realize that none of us really know anything. We just have confidence, so everything I take in isn’t necessarily any better than anything else. That decision, what information is worth internalizing, is one that I know gets made through whatever preexisting beliefs I have, and it can always change.

My own statements can often be a bit… oblique. All depends on the topic, but it’s been said that I can’t give a straight answer. I often take too much time to qualify and define everything I say to the point where some bold conversational partners will just request I spit it out.

 

4. What do you think of knowledge structures? Science? Academia? Philosophy?

They’re all just different beliefs and structures, those webs we make to sail down the river of life.

All that keeps us afloat on them is our confidence. For some it is an ignorance that makes the floating possible, and to have their rafts dismantled and rebuilt for us to link together and sail as one for a time (have a conversation) is an event that brings about a terrible thrashing, something that leads to everything from just simple coldness and rigidity to extreme violence.

So all knowledge structures are webs to me, webs of our own creation, our personal faiths that keep us from going under.

 

3. How would you describe your inner experience? Is it cohesive or do you have many ‘sides’ to you? What are your ‘sides’?

The only cohesion is a lack of cohesion.

The only unifying factor in my internal life is the “in between” spaces where I see, feel, and know nothing, the Nietzschean abyss.

I have as many sides as I need, and very few of them feel stable. Rather than a web boat/structure, I’ve got a shipwreck. I can cobble together whatever I need as I hop from board to board, part to part, building whatever dingy gets me through the day.

I’m an improv artist and a survivalist trying to keep everyone from seeing my sweat as I leap my way down this abyssal river.

I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, hoping others will disassemble their towers and meet me by the water.

 

4. What do you worry most about, at the social level? Do you have concerns about humanity?

I constantly feel like I never land the way I want to. I feel incredibly awkward, and I often come away feeling like I couldn’t play the game the other person wanted. I desperately want genuine connection, but very few people ever give me the sensation that our connection was meaningful…. Probably doesn’t help that I tend to over-complicate every conversation and willingly try to hide myself or just be what the other person wants from me… according to my limited perspective.

 

I have massive concerns about society. It doesn’t help that recently I’ve felt more dread than hope. I’m getting to the point of despair where I start to think to myself:

“We’re the greatest mistake to walk this planet. We don’t see what matters, we don’t connect with one another, and each of us is complicit in the destruction of the Garden of Eden. We take turns feeding one another the Fruit and watching, playing deceptive serpent, temptress, and negligent shepherd every day.”

 

5. In what areas of life does accuracy matter most?

Whenever someone hands you a government form or you operate heavy machinery.

 

6. What is your relationship to age and ‘time’? Would you consider yourself child like? Or more old-man/woman-like?

I consider myself both; however, I’d be a liar if I said old man wasn’t the norm.

For quite some time I’ve felt near to my end, as if I lived life and the curtain’s closing any day.

I tend to spend a lot of time looking backwards, thinking that the future just isn’t for me.

The days of my childhood are precious to me as the only moments where now I look back and feel I lived the way life was meant to be lived: embarrassingly honest, always asking questions, and my biggest concern throughout the day was what sandwich I’d eat for lunch.

 

7. Anything else you’d like to share?

I feel like I rambled… quite enough. I could go on forever.

Perhaps it’s the part of me that loves Mark Twain. I just want us to all kick our shoes off and get on the raft together. I want us to stop our civilized nonsense and just be people with one another.

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