Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Not sure what to write about tonight. I want to close off the religion and power in Planet of the Apes thread, but not sure if I have it in me tonight. Perhaps that reluctance is because it is hard to have gone back to work after a three-day weekend ... weekends are the time when the working classes pretend to be who they really are, and that extra day is just enough to dupe you into thinking you are who you pretend to be rather than who you must be to make ends meet. Identity, such a sweet slice of false consciousness. I am not who I pretend to be, but that does not mean that I am not, nor that I may not pretend.

I am very lucky in my job at MRU because it is a job that uses all of my native and developed skills — technical, electronic, print-production, web, and academic. And I genuinely appreciate the fact that my job contributes to education and intellectual development as well as to my sustenance. But, man, I would rather do it all in my PJs at home, and I would rather that it involved a lot more of the cerebral and a lot less of the social. Am I an incipient hermit or what!

Got back to work today to confront a big print deadline on Thursday. We had a few glitches, but I make all my deadlines, "religiously" as it were. Deadlines do not make for easy lunch hours of writing on the new laptop in the sun. So, instead, I ramble a little in bed, listening to the tail end of Keith Olbermann's nightly ramble ... he's on about poor Lindsay Lohan right now. I have no idea who Lindsay Lohan is, and I think I will keep it that way. I just wonder why she does not use some part of her ill-deserved millions to hire a driver!

I got to watching a documentary on Jacques Derrida last night ... I will ramble on about that at greater length later. I decided to write down random phrases as they appealed to me. Derrida is a victim of his own press ... he is actually quite an erudite literary critic, in my view, but he wandered aimlessly into the juggernaut of the American academic literary market. He comes across in the documentary as a little uneasy at being the object of attention. At one point he refuses to "naturalize that which is not natural", i.e., the camera which is pointing at him. Nice phrase, and well applied to any number of situations.

Perhaps it is well applied to work. My friend Michael Merrill, deceased since 1989, used to say that men are sexiest when they are at work. Michael was that unqiue being, the Buddhist Marxist ... perhaps paradoxically a more unique form of being had he survived than it was in the 70s from which we emerged or the 80s in which we endured ... again, a subject that deserves more attention anon. For now, Michael's notion of the sexiness of a man at work derives precisely from the awkwardness of the "unnaturality" of work. It is not that doing stuff for economic or survival reasons is unnatural ... quite the contrary. But work is removed at least one degree of separation from that in modern life, and it is unnatural because it always requires that we confront it as not in our nature. (With reference to the other half of that dialectic, sexiness is always an awkward confrontation ... there is something unnerving about the sexy, and each person has his or her own take on that awkwardness. Perhaps in a reductive sense that is why religion hates sexiness so much ... because the awkwardness is a counterpoise to the sure predatory character of scripture to which we are required to surrender innocently as if we do not see the potency of the awkward, the unscripted, the bawdy/body. The "earnest" religious swallow this whole; the "desperate" religious feel the contradiction, but come down on the wrong side at least in ideation if not in practice; the "cynical" religious see it all and take what they want, each to their own.)

Work in the sense above is subject to the "any force given long enough turns into its opposite" rule. The unnaturality of work is not immediate (unmediated) or even apparent. Now, it would be simplistic to equate the unmediated with the natural because it is in the nature of being human to be mediated. So working to, say, survive may be natural, but work is a mediation which escapes our control and so progressively retreats from the natural to the mediated ... the mediation is external and steadily more subject to external forces that we accept "as if" natural, and incorporate, but which are absurd and irremediable when we try to quantify them up close or isolate them or identify with them.

So, in Michael's sense, the sexiness of a man at work is congruent with the absurdity of performing "as if" naturally but in fact awkardly. The observer is jarred by reason of the distance from a "natural" that is imagined and idealized but never realized.

Will I regret this in the morning? Probably. Photo at the top (by our mutual friend IM) is of Michael who would have enjoyed this ramble if only because it provides so many opportunities for debate and for its B-S-iness.

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