Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 111

Hi.

Coffee: Light Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I thought about walking to the grocery store. I didn’t, but at least I thought about it. It’s perfect weather. I cleaned some of the cobwebs off the porch.

Today was Z’s last day in town. He was supposed to be working, we both were, but instead I brewed a pot of coffee and we sat in the kitchen talking about group theory. It was the old days, the burning incense from someone else’s dorm room, the right kind of light to think about things that don’t matter. He taught me about computers. A bit of machine code. I wondered what it would be like to live electrically.

There’s a lot of different ways to understand the world.

Now it’s seven and L is over. We’re going out for a bite to eat. The sun’s still up, cutting through the first layer of your skin but not the second, feeling less like summer than fall. I don’t know where we’re going or what we’ll be eating. I can’t imagine it even, because you can never quite imagine the things that actually happen. Wherever I am, though, I’ll be in good company.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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…it may be that some of the ‘highbrow’ applied mathematics will become ‘useful’ in as unexpected a way; but the evidence so far points to the conclusion that, in one subject as in the other, it is what is commonplace and dull that counts for practical life.

G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 31

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

There was a thunderstorm today. While it was on, I opened the windows and read a book. Isn’t that exactly what you’re supposed to do in such a situation?

I’m working my way through ‘The Sense of an Ending.’ I like it better than I had to begin with but still find it overly wrought and pretentious. Maybe it’s supposed to be. That said, being true to yourself doesn’t fix everything.

Anyway, the narrator is constantly caught up in philosophies. He and his friends pick apart life for the logical core – a tootsie pop, but with no humor. And less owls.

That all got me thinking about different intelligences. For the bulk of my life, I considered myself rational. Hell, I got a degree in Philosophy, for God’s(s) sake. To a younger me, it seemed being rational – and rationally intelligent – was key to living a good life. More than that, it was the only key. You were either someone who thought critically or you were making deep mistakes about yourself. What I was missing – and what all of western patriarchy so carefully misses – is that reason is only one small way to understand the world.

I remember having this conversation with an ex about feminism. She said one of the ways women are discounted is by being labeled emotional. Well, I knew that much, and I was on board. But she went on to say that there are these broader ways of looking at a situation – through emotional, psychological, social, etc lenses – that get completely ignored by the competitive mainstream. And by ignoring them, you exclude people who may not have been given the keys to the Castle on the Hill, but who have very real, valid, meaningful experience to bring to the table.

Anyway, the Narrator of “The Sense of an Ending” goes on and on about this girl who broke his heart. And he’s constantly trying to pick apart his memories of her to figure out who she really was and why she did some things she did. But what I think he’s missing – and maybe so is Barnes – is that a lot of action, by both men and women, is not taken like a fruit from some tree of logically consistent causality, but from any other sort of vibrant garden, whose bushes grow great branches without every caring about a things like reason or intelligibility.

Novel Count: 34,291

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Coffee Log, Day 191

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

Tortilla-chip philosophy, Fiesta Mexicana had potato burritos and a family talking animal rights. Carried the conversation home like little styrofoam boxes.

In my major, Ethics and Existentialism were my least favorite branches of philosophy. They were fuzzy old photos, no hard glamour to them. Well, the world at 28 is blurry. I don’t know right and wrong like I used to, hardly know that water freezes or the oxygen in the air. These days, Ethics and Existentialism are about the only branches of philosophy I think about.

What does it mean to be a ‘man?’ That one’s got me. 2018 means #metoo marches and non-binary parades, as well it should. So maybe what I’m asking is: what does it mean to be ‘this man?’ I was raised to dress in jeans, distrust gay men, and dominate women, though no voices in my life ever acknowledged it directly. Instead, it was the way they pushed away the Barbies and gave me toy guns; the permissive laughs I got when I kissed that girl – unwanted – in the third grade play; or the way I told my parents at four I’d been experimenting with a boy below our bedsheets and they said it was natural to be curious, but with sodden implications that the curiosity must decay like garden-spider corpses.

So here I am: a straight, white, southern man. If I ever could have been anything else, those doors were long ago closed. But what does that mean? Scratch enough layers and no-one’s wearing clothes like ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘skin-tone,’ ‘socialized gender.’ There are bits of my experience that I could only have by existing in this body but those experiences belong to an identity connected to but independent of them. So what is that identity?

I’ve read the Iliad three times: once in high school, twice in college. By the third, I was there with the sand on Achilles’s beach. He cries for power. His mother answers. A wonderful suit of armor; a shield to protect him; the curse that he will die young but the promise to live forever in immortal memory. Meanwhile, miles up the coast, Hector kisses hearthfire into his son’s forehead before marching to his own, simpler death. The two heroes wage war into the Trojan soil. Best I can figure, my manhood is in that soil: scuffed between a furious drive for something greater and a humble need for love.

Or maybe I’m just a lump of blood and muscle that’s stressing over nothing. Oh well. Either way, the burritos were damn good.

Currently Reading: Nothing! Still poking through some books, will settle soon.

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“Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.” – Homer, The Illiad
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Coffee Log, Day 176

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Met a teacher of twelve years who’s quitting the profession because it doesn’t pay as well as her summer gig bartending. She’s got an MA in Education but the state of North Carolina doesn’t compensate for that.

I talked to three different techs on a customer service line and each time they started asking me to solve the problem, like “What happens when you do this?”; “What do you think we should try?” A technical issue, we fixed it. Solidarity’s something, I guess.

There’s a technical issue at work that makes certain associates stay late; the higher-ups suggest ways to be productive after close, all of which rely on systems affected by the technical issue. When the point’s raised, it’s taken in stride, we all laugh about it, no better suggestions come to mind.

I took two courses on the Philosophy of Science. We talked about paradigm shifts and air pumps, but mostly we spent time trimming authority. Much of what we know (or think we know) as a society is secured by appreciation of scientific or technical expertise. We point to people who mastered a common dogma, who’ve run the right tests and passed with colors. ‘Experts:’ stuck on pedestals like cherubs in the clouds, but we seldom come to terms with the fact that we, the people, built those pedestals.

Which is sad, scary, and dangerous, because it’s fuel on the fires of ‘fake news’ and other evil exploitations of reasonable doubt. A tug-of-war, two sides taught, one believing everything and the other nothing. ‘Truth,’ instead, is gritty, changing, evolutionary; it’s somewhere in the mud.

So NC tells her best teachers to kick bricks with their fancy graduate degrees, bigwigs burned by too many flawed phone calls with their cable reps.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“My answer to him was, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” – Isaac Asimov

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Coffee Log, Day 157

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

We were promised thunderstorms. I checked the weather all week. At work, I heard from customers about their houses getting water-logged. I was excited, but I never saw a drop.

In my novel, I write about the Anpanman museum in Fukuoka. I hadn’t been there so I looked up lots of pictures. There’s a big glass ceiling over the stage where they do costume shows. I thought: I wish I had seen it rain from below the glass. There were lots of storms in Japan but never one while I was in Fukuoka. Now, since the novel, my memory of that city is changed: raining, static, wet and overwhelming.

It’s made me doubt myself more broadly. If I can rewrite a place for a novel, couldn’t I be doing that with the rest of my life? My four years of philosophy come out like spring spiders and start eating this and that certainty; I sit with Descartes at a candlelit desk and contemplate. I’ve known for a while that I don’t know much of anything, but to think that maybe I’m less in touch with things I thought I did? Spooky – where’s the Halloween candy?

But when the doubt fades I sort of love it. My life, your life, we’re narratives. That’s romantic. Telling you my story until it changes, until the me between your two ears is one that I don’t even know.

Outside, clouds are coming. We were promised thunderstorms. A little out of sight, the sky bled like a new mother, birth-marking peat and loam.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty

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Coffee Log, Day 49

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I looked at my philosophy textbooks today. I remember being excited when I bought Plato’s Complete Works. It’s a big red book with bible-thin pages. Cost as much as a month of groceries. I haven’t opened it since 2012.

School gasses us up on impotent ideas. I’m sure there’s someone out there with a philosophy degree who took her studied ideas and built an action out of them, but I bet she’s rare. There are two cultures: working-class necessity or privileged idleness. The first is desperate enough to teach kids to kick and claw any way they can and the other is comfortable enough to teach kids how to ‘seem’ but not how to ‘be.’ Education fails them both. It doesn’t give a way out and it doesn’t guide privilege into useful action.

I was a teacher for awhile, but I wasn’t very good at it.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

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