Monday, December 28, 2009

the myth of aging

There is an idea bouncing around in my head today that require a little more space than a twitter update to explore.

I'm going to do something that is probably in poor taste- I'm going to explore these ideas as they occur to me, without forcing linearity as I've been attempting to do - with mixed success - in my IoM essays.

This thought-web is about our youth obsessed culture. (When I say "our" I specifically mean what's broadly called "Western Culture,"  though I admit that term is less and less useful especially as various elements of different cultures continue to intermingle on a micro- level. Still, it's all we have, even if I feel a slight pang of guilt every time I use the term, especially in essays intended for print.)

This long tangent aside, it's clearly evident that commercialism has really latched onto the exteriority of
youth. But why? Ours is a culture of the surface level, and of the eye, which only perceives surfaces. (Alan Dundes has an essay about this final observation that I highly recommend, discussion of it would take us further off-topic. Seeing Is Believing is the name of the essay.)
huh. what?

This has produced a simple duality- one is either "young," or "old."

I see this in my own life, almost upon the very stroke of turning thirty. Certainly, my friends mean it partially as a joke, "oh, you're old now!" But there is always some truth, some sublimated observation, hiding underneath such jokes. There is no real  possibility for adulthood, for a continuum or gradation of aging. (In a society where most of us live into our 70s, 40 can hardly be  considered "old.")

In an exteriorally focused culture, a culture of surfaces, physical material and the sensations provided are valuable. Status is perhaps the most intangible good considered in the most extreme view of consumer culture. However, it is represented best by material goods, the expensive watch, for instance, which signals one ability to buy an unnecessary luxury item to potential mates, but does a whole lot less. (Not that the absence of utility is the only vector to consider such things along- art, too, generally has little practical value.) The sexualization of youth follows a similar line, even as it butts up against the Christian plates of our ideological geography. I am the last to deny there is a certain appeal to the sexual energy of youth (I'm talking about early twenties, you freaks.) However, in the fact that those attributes are the only pattern that sexual attractiveness can adhere to- especially for women- we see the outline of a cultural psychological imbalance.

The values afforded by aging don't fit into this schema of physicality. Though some people do not change with age, merely experiencing the accumulated detriments of their inflexible habits there is also a possibility for increased self knowledge, wisdom. Many traditional cultures revere the elders for this reason, although it is a double-edged sword- the elders are the most likely to strictly enforce the mores of their day, thus creating a certain a-temporal quality in all such cultures that put the elder in exulted positions.

Youthcentrism provides a certain progressive bent. That can't be considered negative, even despite the repurcussions of the myth of  progress (one of the ideas I'm exploring in Pretty Suicide Machine.) It is a contributing factor in a growing problem within  our culture- generations of manchildren and womenchildren, who latch onto infantalism and all of the negatives that come along  with childhood - including a complete lack of regard for repurcussions or whether a decision will actually yield desired results - simply because youth is so exhaulted within our cultural mindset.

The wisdom of aging is traded for the deterioration of the body. Certainly, there are choices we can make to stall this process. But there remains some truth to the saying "youth is wasted on the young." The height of the physical body does not match the height of the spiritual or psychological self. It comes then as no surprise that age should be abhorred so much, especially when considered in concert with the Western fear of death. However, it is our myths that make this process terrifying, and our myths that create the simple duality of "young" and "old."

At 31, I am neither young nor old. I am an adult, finally self-aware enough to begin taking responsibility for my actions, and make decisions with enough experience to be able to better guess the ultimate results of those decisions. This comes along with detriments- I am beginning to see the accumulated results of my habits, and my body is beginning to get less resiliant, (especially in concert with a chronic illness), but I see decisions I can make to begin reversing some of those unwanted results, and can at least take a shot at accomplishing my goals, rather than being lulled into helplessness by the obstacles.

I don't know if I'll actually attain any of my goals. I'm also not sure if it matters. What matters is our choices, not the obstacles that stand in the way. It may be a cliche, but only because it is so often said but rarely heeded. There is no immortal goal, no accomplishment that will long outlive us in a geological or even historical sense. But that isn't what life is about.

What do you think?

(Side note: aging NEVER has to mean losing a sense of play. In fact, it can mean what we want it to mean, aside from the biological necessities and imperatives.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas: Evolve or Die

Merry Christmas to all of you evolving humans out there. Your striving is beautiful, even in failure.

To the rest of you fuckers: you are taking up our oxygen. Some resources are non-renewable. They're sacrificed for the sake of our growth. And if it isn't growth, then it's wasted, like all those buffalo slaughtered and left to rot on the plain.

My point: this coming year, do something new, think about things in a new way, do something you've done before in a way you haven't before, explore, challenge yourself. If not you do a disservice to yourself and humankind.

The results are less relevant. The attempt is everything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Suicide Machine Myth

As I promised on my twitter, here is an early version of one piece of a 3 part essay that I'm working on for the Immanence of Myth. Clearly, the structure still needs work, and a lot of the references are missing, but the basic ideas are now all there. (Also note: some of my notes are in this text as it is a draft-in-progress. FN means footnote. Ref means reference needed, etc.)

Read article on Reality Sandwich

Monday, December 07, 2009

Immanence of Myth anthology: personal essays

The first submission deadline I set for the Immanence of Myth anthology is coming up in a couple days. (December 10th.) I've already received some good submissions, and some that I think will be good after some editorial. However, I've received very few pieces that actually deal with your experiences of myth in life. I could see these working written as fiction, or as personal essays. So I'll hint at what I'm looking for with these, and extend the deadline.

Material for the third and final part of this book (tent. ent.: personal mythologies) are best kept short and somewhat anecdotal, exploring how the ideas in your life have affected the events of your life. Tone counts for a lot here, moreso than an academic essay. Shoot for 750-2500 words.

Beyond that it is hard to detail the contents of what will "work" for this kind of essay, as all our experiences differ. I'll know it when I see it, and you'll probably feel it as you're writing it.

Have them to me by March 1st, 2010. jamescurcio at gmail dot com

If you have material for one of the other parts of this anthology, but haven't been able to get it ready in time, you can also use this opportunity to get it in.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

post-modern marriage myths

I know I don't talk much about my personal life on my blog, but there's something coming up that I wanted to explain and discuss. As some of you may know, I'm getting married next autumn. Immediately, all sorts of things spring to mind, people have so many presuppositions about marriage that it makes me want to call it something else entirely. The word is fine, what it actually stands for is fine, but all the baggage drives me insane.

On its face, marriage is a partnership contract between two people. That's it. The nature of that partnership is as much up to those people as anything else about our lives: what we choose to wear in the morning, eat, how we want to spend our lives, etc. It means that two people are choosing to be partners in the ongoing drama of life. Though there's no good reason that it can't be more than two people, that's how the law paints it. And there is some precedent to the diad as a strong bond- just look at chemistry. On the other hand, we'd be pretty fucked without some of those three pair bonds, like say H 2 O.

Regardless, this is the law as it presently stands, and as it so happens I presently have one partner, not two. We are fed a bill of sale along with this basic agreement that does not necessarily follow. It may, if you choose for it to, but your marriage is ultimately what you make it to be. It does not mean you will take no other lovers, it does not mean that you will have children, or own a home together, or that you need to buy a diamond ring to seal the deal. It doesn't mean the bride will wear white, or that there even needs to be a grand expensive to-do where everyone you can think of is invited. (In our case, this is true except #2, which is undecided for the foreseeable future, and #3, until we can amass enough money to rectify the situation and have our library recording studio art studio king sized bed giant bathroom lovenest with kitties and maybe chickens if Jaz gets her way.)

Everyone is unique in genetics, upbringing, and that essential, indefinable quality that makes a person who they are and no other- so the same is true in the partnerships we forge. Compromise, communication, and individuality make strange bedfellows at times but they're the essential elements of any marriage. The specifics are unique- but we're given a one-size-fits-all image of what marriage is, what it means. There is no need. Make it as unique as you are. Love your partners for their uniqueness, why should we bend it to fit a mold?

A friend of mine had a costume wedding. He was an astronaut. If you knew him you'd understand why this was such a great expression of their wonderful peculiarity. And if your ideas and your partners ideas about marriage are irreconcilable, that may be worth looking at.

My take on marriage is this: Take in life together, and love, and lovers if you so choose, put the pleasure of your partner on an equal level with your own (that's where compromise comes in), and try to enjoy the ride.

This also leads into a push-button topic these days, that of gay marriage. I think what I've already said should very clearly demonstrate where I stand on this issue. (The fact that my mother has identified as lesbian for some time makes this even more pressing, and there is no good reason whatsoever that she shouldn't be able to engage in a partnership with whomever she chooses.) The government sanctions a partnership as a legal contract. It has no right to stipulate the gender or particulars of that contract, any more than it has the right to dictate the one and only way I can engage in business with a publisher. Further, marriage is not only a contract, but anything beyond that simple agreement - to engage in the process of living as a unit - rests outside the boundaries of governmental and cultural critique.


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