ETH

January 9, 2011

GOD: Hello!

ANGEL: Hey, God.

G: You seem solemn.

A: Do you really need to talk like that? You’re God. I’m sure nothing merely “seems” like anything to you.

G: Would you rob a man of his diction?

A: There you go again, you’re not a man.

G: And there you go again robbing me.

A: Sorry, I am feeling solemn.

G: I know.

A: Yeah.

G: Well, go ahead and tell me.

A: Okay, so I’ve only been in heaven for a few months, as you know, and I’ve been earnestly trying to figure out my role up here. Only, I haven’t quite found it yet and I’m feeling kind of restless.

G: I see.

A: Of course. Well, anyway, I can’t seem to narrow the domain of possibilities and its really stringing me out. I mean, when it comes down to it — is there anything an angel can’t do?

G: Well, it can’t be me, of course.

A: I guess that’s a start. I can’t be god. I was thinking about becoming an SAT tutor — I think the pay is good, and it’s pretty easy work.

G: Is that what you want? A life of ease?

A: You say it like it’s a bad thing. No, God, I want my post-life life to be really hard. This is heaven, remember?

G: Yes, of course, I know. I’m just trying to urge to not take an easy route merely because it seems safe, and you know exactly what you are getting into. It’s a hard argument to make, really, to endorse a choice whose outcome is not certain — of course, it would have to be an argument about the goodness of uncertainty, which for me, of course, is a pretty hard concept to get my head around.

A: C’mon God, don’t starting getting philosophical on me. I’m trying to make an actual decision.

G: Right, of course. Well, what are your alternatives?

A: Well many, really. And that’s the hard part. There’s stand-up comedian, ethologist, actor, writer, entrepreneur. The world is my oyster, so to speak

G: Well, those indeed seem like some intriguing choices. What’s keeping you from settling on a single one.

A: Well, there is my tremendous sense of doubt.

G: What do you doubt?

A: My interest, my potential for success. The reasons are vague, I know, but they are powerful as they are nebulous.

G: Well, okay. What if I just pick for you?

A: Will you enforce it?

G: I will.

A: Okay, fine then, you do something and force me to carry it out. On my own free will, I hereby abandon my personal sovereignty and yield that power to you.

G: Good, now go get me a dugong.

A: A dugong, sir?

G: Yes, it’s a manatee.

A: Well, why did you call it a dugong then?

G: To be cute, of course. Doesn’t my mouth look awfully cute when I say “dugong”?

A: No.

Cowboy

December 28, 2010

I tossed aside my New Yorker, straightened up, wiped the dandruff from my shoulder, and eased myself out of my luxury sedan, feeling obligated to talk to the man in the ten gallon hat. I closed and beeped the car, only to return for my alibi, the magazine.

A white van — shorter in length, but no less menacing than the ones normally full of bound, reluctant children — had been his foothold when I drove past, but now he had crept, unnoticed, to the beach.

I walked towards, waiting to fall into his line of sight. Hidden by the brim of his hat and the focus of his interest — the repetitive strumming of his guitar — I eventually stopped, a few feet past, and just stared at him until he looked up. We were the only two on the beach — and it seemed reasonable–no, to be expected–that we would have a conversation.

“Beautiful day. Hello. Oh yeah, very nice,” we both said.

Fully dressed in cowboy gear, Michael, a tan forty-something, wore light blue jeans tucked into shin-high brown leather boots, a flannel shirt and a ten gallon hat. Just a few weeks before, I had heard a story on NPR about efforts to salvage the songs cowboys use to sing to their herds. I wondered: where were the bovine snorlaxes that this man should be wooing to sleep?

Michael glanced down at his feet, and up the length of the beach. “You know this sand was brought in from the Bahamas?” he said.

“No,” I answered, smiling eagerly through the semi-opaque lenses of my brown sunglasses.

“Yeah, that’s what an officer — well, Miami-Dade, or Sheriff’s — some kind of official told me. And it’s sterilized too,” he continued, looking at me excitedly. “Bacteria free.”

“Really?” I asked, not so much a question but an expression of my surprise. I had never heard of bacteria free sand — never knew it was an issue, really.

Behind us, on the Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects Key Biscayne to I-95, high performance German automobiles mounted the bridge to the island and were flanked, perhaps, by the small Japanese cars of their children’s nannies.

Michael, alone on the beach, was out here playing guitar to no one, enjoying the day. “This is what I live for, days like this,” he said. Eventually, our mutual admiration turned apocalyptic, as we wondered at the eerily uneventful hurricane season of the past year.

“Something’s brewing,” Michael said. “Something that could wipe all of this out,” he gestured, swinging his arm 180 degrees, but missing me, thankfully.

Michael talked of six hundred foot waves, Indonesian disasters, and tsunamis making cross-atlantic journeys. He was a fan of the History Channel and other, he stammered, “educational programs,” I helped.

I was skeptical of his claim: a single, African born wave swimming across the pond to destroy sunny Florida? Michael was sure, though: “Oh yeah,” he said, breathy and self-assured.

Eventually, Michael got a call from his daughter–“Sorry Josh, I have to take this,”– and soon after left in his gleaming white van, the front windows rolled down, revealing that guy from the end of the Big Lebowski who wants some of that good Sarsaparilla, and the sounds of a classic rock station.

Now alone, I sat on the rock where Michael had once perched and read from my prop, got up, walked around, looked at the sea, read some more and wandered back to my car, stalling to look down at the magazine and up again at a car that had parked next to mine.

“Cold, cold,” I said to my hands, and went to go tutor the SAT.

The Sun and Us

July 5, 2010

Night and day, the seasons. The earth is at a 23.5 degree tilt, no small departure from a straight up and down orientation. This tilt is responsible for the earth’s seasons. Many people seem to know this, but do they know why? Especially in a place like Miami, where the seasons are not as exaggerated as more northern areas of the world, do people know why the tilt of the earth should be responsible for the four seasons—winter, spring, summer and fall? And does it seem merely coincidental that the days are longest in the summer and shortest in the winter? While it may seem incidental, it is actually causal, for the change in season is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight in a given area. And because the earth is on a tilt, one hemisphere, the one oriented toward the sun for part of the year, gets more sunlight and has summer while the rest of the planet has winter. And it is hotter and there is more life because plants are getting more sunlight and can afford to put out leaves and fruits unlike their southern cousins, who shed their leaves as part of a different strategy for survival. Explanations make the natural world seem magical. I think causal chains are greatly satisfying, even if I were not curious in the first place about these taken-for-granted natural phenomena.

This place

June 21, 2010

Dude Sweating on Wikipedia (<<<sweaty dude)

Miami opens my pores like a passively gated ion channel. I am sweating constantly and always, and my shirts never need a water cycle pre-soak. One of people's favorite things to say, like lox being salty, is that the difference between a hot place like Miami and a hot place like Arizona is the humidity. They like to talk about the "dry heat" of the desert compared to the sultry safari of the South-south east.

So yeah, Miami is a sweat kingdom, and the stuff that flows onto our shores and makes us such a popular vacation destination is analogous to the stuff flowing off the shores of our epidermises. So if the pheromone speculation is accurate shouldn’t people be copulating more often here, ceterus parabus?

On an unrelated note, expat Cubans are a very proud people and, what separates Miami from larger and more distinguished cities like LA and NYC is that there are so few corporate headquarters here, and bereft of that, there is so many less jobs, capital, and corporate philanthropy that could support the kind of community building and social welfare programs that could reduce poverty and perhaps bring South Florida schools out of the shit position in which they rank compared to other states. A boss of mine, and local historian, Webber, was telling me this stuff.

Happy

June 20, 2010

Father’s Day.

No Italy, but

June 16, 2010

this blog has seemed to undergo a recent renaissance. The postings, I mean, have become more frequent. And almost out of nowhere. There is a context, indeed. It is my return to the place where I grew up, Miami. Miami, for the past four years, and trivially before that, although it came up in conversation less, was the place from where I was from. I am from Miami. Oh? Yes. How do you like it? Eh. At the very least, I had some close friends who definitely didn’t like it, and as I followed their tastes in music, books and nihilism, it followed closely that I would also start to share their opinions of the home land. Now, that isn’t to say that those opinions are wrong, even unjustified. It is merely to say that on matters in which I don’t have strong preferences, I am happy to assume those of my closest peers. Evidence for this interpersonal knowledge: I now like Pink Floyd and Daft Punk, music that would have never been played in my high school friends’ automobiles, and now would still likely be turned off. Of course, there are many objections to made. Perhaps there tastes have changed also. It is not a controlled experiment, merely a personal observation. But this is my blog, and my posts, and so I kindly urge the refer to defer to the authority of my waking conscious experience in all matters related to my personal psychology, more perhaps as matter of manners than a rigorous epistemology. But that is neither here nor there.

This blog post was supposed to be about my recent experiences in Miami, which have been eye opening and pleasurable, and which I wish to continue to nurture as long as I remain in this place from which I was conceived, mentally and otherwise. But those details will wait, and stir round in my mind and forget themselves and re-remember in an altered existence until I deliver them to you here, at a later date, or possibly not at all. But how about that Kobe Bryant?

Philosophy

June 15, 2010

Not that I was planning on jumping into any Ph.D programs in philosophy right away, but I did solicit a former professor for a recommendation before the amazing plasticity of the mind erases the synaptic connections that were once relevant to my good standing in her memory, and she cautioned me, writing that there “are virtually no jobs” in professional philosophy. I guess that’s not a big shocker, given that it is philosophy!, but still, these are my goals, okay?

So something to consider. Of course, economic conditions could change in five years or so, when I’d be done getting that thing, but my professor did also say that there seems to be movement in the US/UK of not treating the liberal arts with all the glory that they used to. Sucks, it seems. On the other hand, if you look at a chart, sometimes philosophy majors make more money than, say, biology majors! Ha! But what kind of conclusions can you draw from data anyway?

On Goals and Future-Orientedness

June 14, 2010

Just a minute ago I had a piece of Italian bread and butter, and the butter that I used, the first one, was a piece that my dad had deemed too large for his portion of bread and had put back. That butter could have been in my dad’s stomach! How weird!

Anyway, as I stood there eating leftover veal Parmesan, I thought what a grand accomplishment would be vegetarianism. Not considering the moral arguments, which I find convincing, it seems almost a pity to oneself to believe in something for a long period of time but to never act on it. That is, whether or not the arguments for vegetarianism are convincing, I think they are, and I have for a very long time, but I have not yet acted on this personal truth. Wouldn’t it feel good, perhaps better than it feels to have the taste of some flesh in your mouth, to succeed in satisfying a personal goal?

That would be nice, huh?

The Prophet

June 11, 2010

Also, brilliant poetry coming out of this book some friends gave me, very sweet, called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I recommend.

The Time We Have Not Yet Seen

June 11, 2010

I am currently confused about the path my life may take in the future. Currently, I am be groomed to begin a six week long teaching program for sixth graders. I’ll be teaching them earth science, and it will probably be a challenge, and quite a bit of work, with many long hours. But it may also be rewarding, fun, and or informative–hopefully, to both me and my students. I am a bit nervous about doing work again. I haven’t really done much in the way of that kind of activity since finals ended about a month ago, and so I can no longer sleep late each day and wake up to go the gym, my friends’ house, etc. However, that is not actually a problem. It is only a bit of whining.

Actually, what I’m most concerned about is what happens after that. There are no great risks, and I am not at a loss for time, I just am unsure about my current tentative plans, and that is stressful. At the moment, I plan to find work (unpaid, likely) at a neuroscience lab that seems like a schlep (40+ minutes) and which I’m also concerned I will not like. This is a silly concern, given that it is hard to not like things (with any evidence) before you try them, but I have an untrustworthy taste in my mouth that may or may not wind up resembling old socks. So, I suppose I take that as I will, and see where it goes. It is mostly useless to attempt to foretell the realization of my preferences before they can be clearly exercised. But if I did like, which would be great (because it is good to do things that one likes), I will be happy. And if I don’t like it, I guess, I will cross it off the list, and maybe or maybe not know what to do next. There are still things, as a sprightly young person, that I want to do. For instance, I still want to return to south america, and perhaps work on a farm for a while. I also would like to start a business, however small. I want to go surfing, and mountain biking, and do some writing. But I also (I guess?) need to find a career, a passion, a way to satisfy myself professionally and financially. I need to stake out a life for myself independent of my parents, especially our family home, build new relationships, and grow. I also wouldn’t mind spending some time on a boat.

So, on the one hand, I have some desires that don’t seem unquenchable. On the other, things are very vague and unsettled. I think a job in academia would be rewarding, not morally challenging, but intellectually so, and as one professor recently told me, you get to interact with young people, which I suppose is good. Regardless of that, it’s nice to talk and think and write, and all those seem satisfied my job as a professor in one form or the next. But in what discipline? Philosophy is great, and I’ve loved the time I’ve spent unearthing the foundations of my most precious assumptions about the world and life, and the arguments and the idealism and the searching for is indeed close to my heart. For some reason, I’ve also fetishized science over the past few years, as some holy vault of objective knowledge to which no other discipline with epistemological aspirations can hold its head up to. Of course, I know there are problems with objectivity, and I also know, that the scientific method is not alive in all disciplines. And I think I know that the work is tough, and often unrewarding, and slow, and mundane, and perhaps it is only the conclusions and arguments over methodology that I really treasure. Or perhaps I’m not asking the right questions, and I don’t know if I could stomach doing philosophy for the rest of my life, but also don’t know if I could do lab work for even a semester — many signs to my intolerance for tedious and monotonous laboratory manipulation, biological manipulation, irreverence for supposed kinds…I did not like my bio 2960 lab, I did not like my plants lab at Auckland, labwork has never seemed sexy or interesting, it only seems an inevitable obstacle to a career in science…what am I doing? My parents have already spent hours of their lives finding out just what kind of abbreviations I could earn next to my name a scientists, how many years of school it might require, and happiness at the possibility of my finding a passion. Of course, this is no way to make a decision. And I cannot give up now before I try it. And I must finally settle this deeply personal question that may seem so obvious to so many others. And I must prepare to alleviate a heavy doubt I have for my future aspirations, and perhaps satisfy myself with small projects and small goals, and hope that that way my life will be defined meaningfully, and satisfyingly, and perhaps my guessing is not worth the words on this page. But it is so hard to know.

And that’s kind of what I’ve hand in mind for the past few weeks.