Year’s End

I come here thinking that this blog is nearly two years old. I began this project with a very hopeful and dedicated post: https://yadayadapourlayada.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/why-write-why-here-why-not/

I think this blog lived up to the expectations I had for it, and I wrote some really great texts here. Book reviews, expositions, poetry, prose, reflections, letters, and unwritings. This blog, like the rest of the pieces of my life, had a really good run.

I wish I could say the same about this last year. Some good things happened:

– I graduated finally.

– I have very temporary financial stability and health insurance.

– I met a few new friends.

But the bad definitely outweigh the good:

– I lost my feline best friend Wylie last January.

– I lost my grandmother in July.

– I lost my home in a move my son and I never wanted to make.

– I lost my best friend.

– I lost my partner.

– My son broke his leg in an injury that will take away the next three months.

In all of this loss, I lost my heart. My faith in the good will of the world is shattered. I have no hope; I don’t even believe in hope anymore. Rather, I think hope is dangerous. Instead of lying to myself and saying “things are going to get better,” I’ve decided a new mantra:

No matter what happens, I’m going to endure it.

Unfortunately, this enduring is going to be in silence. I have no desire to write anymore. I still plan on reading, but I won’t be sharing my thoughts in the public spheres of the Internet any longer.

Compie Peter Elbow wrote about how sharing our writing is an act of giving. Of course, I look to Derrida’s definition of the sacredness of the gift (and there are posts here on that). Writing has always been a sacred act to me in all of these definitions. I wanted to give my voice as a gift of myself. And I know I have done this here. So I leave you all with two prayers:

May this blog always live on in its lexical giving.

May this new year bring me to new places where my voice won’t be stolen.

With love to you all always,

Les

New – Hostis: A Journal of Incivility

hrm. definitely considering this.

Anarchist Without Content

bagh-nakha

Feel free to share widely.

Hostis: A Journal of Incivility

Call for Submissions

Issue 1: Political Cruelty

Few emotions burn like cruelty. Those motivated by cruelty are neither fair nor impartial. Their actions speak with an intensity that does not desire permission, let alone seek it. While social anarchism sings lullabies of altruism, there are those who play with the hot flames of cruelty. We are drawn to the strength of Franz Fanon’s wretched of the earth, who find their voice only through the force of their actions, the sting of women of color’s feminist rage, which establishes its own economy of violence for those who do not have others committing violence on their behalf, the spirit of Italy’s lapsed movement of autonomy, which fueled radicals who carved out spaces of freedom by going on the attack (“Il Diritto all’Odio” – The Right to Hatred), the assaults of Antonin Artaud’s dizzying…

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GODDESSES

going back and forth and to and from Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, caring for my son, and my own scribbling in my journal. I write down that “i found a way to write again.” Lucky me. Lucky for the pain.

“He’s not coming, Les.” I say to myself. I hear Kate’s narrative woman-ness in my head. All the loneliness of all of our stories coursing within my silence. It’s catchy–it’s catching. I remember that I never forgot how to write fiction because I am living this. Always living this. And he is never coming.

I lock myself up in the bathroom to cry so my son won’t hear me and be worried.

I think about Kate’s living characters. I am one of us. The men, they write me and they write to me. They hold my voice up somewhere inside them. Such is a public woman writer. “What if i don’t need you to tell me how it’s going to be? What if i don’t need to be saved? or fixed? What if i say maybe someday, but i can’t see past today?” Because maybe i don’t want to. I wanted his arms. He was my only cage. I chose those bars; I know their silence. and i want him.

I clean cat pee off the laundry room floor, tears drowning the freckles on my cheeks (cheeks you used to want to pinch and rarely did), and I think about how people are really places and that we never really leave a place once we’ve been there.

Or maybe women like us don’t. Do all men leave? Kate reassures me that it isn’t just me. That my loneliness is mine but it is also yours.

photo-2

i’m in this place and i thought i was alone. and i am in most senses. i’m trapped here. i need you. i never stopped needing you. my vulnerability has been read like a flaw throughout all of history. my madness has been read as insanity. all these men love to look at me from far away; my brilliance and my mastery of the pen bleeds into them somehow. but, up close, you know what it’s like. and you left. all that brilliance isn’t easy to read every day, is it?

i remember that i need someone stronger than every man who left me. you’re added to a list i never wanted to see you on. i keep ending these sentences with prepositions because you’re a place not a person. why are you nowhere? i need to go home. i need to find out where that is now. because it was here and now it isn’t:

photo-3

i put this computer down; i stop typing. he needs me to help him to the bathroom. i said once something about language being the things we carry. i’ve been carrying him everywhere for two weeks now. i just want to put it all down. i want to hear your breathing while i sleep. i want these words to mean more than memory.

but they don’t. and i’ve bled on the page again. maybe all the sound will stop if i keep bleeding out. maybe i’ll make peace with your silence and your gone. maybe, just maybe, i’ll be a woman who is held while she cries because she can’t find the place where she can be herself. and i take a small bit of comfort in knowing it’s not just me, and many of us women have to die alone. goddesses, we bleed.

my mask says _____________

words are just petty abstractions

for who we are.

so many times i’ve seen us–i’ve seen myself–use words we don’t mean. we wear these words on our mouths and we have to look them in the eye. somehow, their gaze always deflects off of us and onto one another instead. so infrequently do we hear our faces in silence. it takes time apart and quiet to take the masks off and see the shape of things said. only by then we cannot unsay them.

i had a p great conversation with @mikedelic this morning about words, masks, signification, and love. it started with something i said: “the letter always leaves”. if you’ve read any of this blog, then you might understand what i mean by letter. mike v aptly remarked that “the signifier doesnt even really signify!”

and he’s right.

there’s too much metaphor for my statement to mean anything concrete. maybe that’s exactly how it should stay. after all, i may want to rescind a meaning tomorrow, and if the statement is finite, then i have to wear those words forever even if i don’t mean them anymore. thus, many words here won’t necessarily mean one thing. but they’ll always mean the same thing.

i’m only speak abstract because i love you.

there’s no way to write my way to you anymore. where can i even begin when all i do is write? so many letters we’ve had. so many we have been. so many we have read. written. spoken. all past tenses. all permanent masks of pain and ambiguity. mike mentioned that this all could be metonymy. what would such a thing mean?

derrida once never said something along the lines that we are always living our politics. and that is why he never committed to any political standing in writing or speaking. never fully. he was always ambiguously mum.

many have criticised him for his ambiguity–to which his eyes twinkled and he smirked: just because we name a thing doesn’t make it truth.

i think about Solzhenitsyn’s words of courage; i think about how we were going to wear them. i think about how those words were a mask. and what does it mean to love their face?

it’s the kind of being that i am. it’s the face that doesn’t turn away even when it’s hopeless and hard. a mask that doesn’t walk away. do you remember? do you?

A Subjective Summary of Sara Ahmed’s Introduction to ‘The Promise of Happiness’

We may often feel that the purpose of summary is rarely anything more than a glorified ego-trip of performing an understanding of a text. And I accept that. Indeed. The use of summarizing here is to understand what I’m reading and how I feel about the words in my hands. Sara Ahmed’s move to tackle one of the most ambiguous concerns in the history of philosophy is big–bigger than big. Since “happiness” as it’s simultaneously reified onto a person and buried in an ethereal subconscious eludes me, her book finds me at a time when I absolutely need to understand. So here I am, and you are too if you’re with me. Hellos and what not; I’m glad for your company, if but from a silent afar.

Ahmed starts us off by asking in her heading “Why Happiness, Why Now?” Her question is good not only in the pertinence of it, but in the permanence of asking. The now becomes a forever present, which is a smart way to begin her eventual relationship to this philosophical elusive. She will want us to realize how happiness is a thing so much as it is no thing. (It slips away to gray.)

At times, Ahmed projects how happiness exists more as a state. She does this at these times by asking: “Do we consent to happiness? And what are we consenting to, if or when we consent to happiness?” (1). The multiplicitous nature of happiness exacerbates its ambiguity. These questions can teach us to consider happiness in its forms and shapes. To think of happiness as a thing means we can see it–know it is there–and then consent to its arrival into our lives. However, we often experience happiness less like a thing and more like a state only recognized in hindsight (keep a grip on this hindsight action).

She continues, “If happiness is what we wish for, it does not mean we know what we wish for in wishing for happiness. Happiness might even conjure its own wish. Or happiness might keep its place as a wish by its failure to be given” (1). Simply by wishing for it, happiness will always take the shape of a perpetual abstraction. Its elusiveness commands power over us because we live in a constant state of desiring it. The speech act of wishing formed in prayer, in declaration, or even in silence connects us to the abstraction in our attempt to regain a sense of power. Because we are always using language to reify the unknown,  happiness is no stranger. (If anything, it is the utmost reification.) Ironically, it is this act that transforms the ambiguity into objectification.

Ahmed runs down an overview of how philosophers have grappled with happiness as a concept. I won’t go into an argument over how well she does this. Her writing speaks for itself and if you need extrapolative detail, getcha some and read her. I’ll just quote her one quite elegant summation: “Around these specific critiques are long histories of scholarship and activism which expose the unhappy effects of happiness, teaching us how happiness is used to redescribe social norms as social goods” (2). Ahmed has now moved toward a few node-dispersions. Happiness has 1) a philosophical history; 2) a history in activism; and 3) has been appropriated into the capitalist machine as a form of object production.

We must note that her node-dispersions lead her to directly relating happiness to politics: “a politics that demands others live according to a wish” (2). Returning to ambiguity (politics is as politics do, innit?), happiness must-needs depend upon speech to manifest itself as a thing in order to live. The thing of all thing, of course, being what we live every day. Thus the speech act of wishing for happiness takes up an oppressive camaraderie: you must want what I want for it to be so. Imma tease this out a bit as I progress through my interactions with Ahmed’s book, but for now, we can assume that she’s defiantly embracing the juxtaposed nature of performance and objectification of ambiguity politics. (confusing? You’re going to be okay. Patience, one-day-at-time-so forth-such is the nature of the beast-etc.)

Where we at now is where Ahmed really starts amping happiness up as a critique of capitalism: “If we have a duty to promote what causes happiness, then happiness itself become a duty” (7). The duty involved in ensuring happiness becomes a thing forces politics into labor. And what is labor but a surplus mass of folk working toward an endgame goal of production to accumulate “happiness wealth.” Ahmed  informs us that wealth creates a sense of “crisis” in our striving for happiness. When we fail to accumulate happiness, we believe we are failing at life, and this grows into a sense of happiness poverty of which we must escape. In this state of poverty, then, nostalgia for what was takes shape: “The demand for happiness is increasingly articulated as a demand to return to social ideals, as if what explains the crisis of happiness is not the failure of these ideals but our failure to follow them. And arguably, at times of crisis the language of happiness acquires an even more powerful hold” (7). So we begin by looking back into our lives to see where we did gone wrong–where we lost our happiness wealth.

This will be a time period of questioning our actions and our relationships. We will critique those around us for their part in our shared failure of what was a bunch of reified smiles. And here is when Ahmed shows “how happiness becomes a disciplinary technique” (8). We can aim to be happier because “[w]hat is at stake here is a belief that we can know ‘in advance’ what will improve people’s lives” (8). Our beliefs about happiness solidify hope into broken dreams. Were the people around us better at the means of happiness production, we wouldn’t have lost our joy capital. So we place blame. But a form of ignorance surfaces; what blaming the others in our lives does is cancel out the labor involved in actually being happy.

Oh, or does it? (insert me winking and weeping both at once)

Perhaps we start trying to find happiness in doing good and slapping a smile on our faces for the hope-to-feel it. Ahmed ain’t necessarily cool with that though. Rather, she tells us that “[y]ou might note here that correlations (happiness with optimism, and happiness with altruism) quickly translate into causalities in which happiness becomes its own cause: happiness causes us to be less self-focused, more optimistic, which in turn causes us to be happier, which means we cause more happiness for others, and so on” (9-10). A cycle incurs cycle. As happiness in an external form is a love’s labor lost, we place it again externally upon our faces and our actions. The cause of happiness is happiness and what can that even mean when happiness is not actually a thing?

Ahmed does not quantify do-gooding actions as good or bad, per se. Her move is to return to the personal nature of happiness: “Where we find happiness teaches us what we value rather than simply what is of value” (13). It’s this personal subjectivity that should teach us about ourselves before it teaches us about one another. Ethically, we owe it to the ambiguous nature of happiness to critique our own conceptions of our being happy before we place it on one another. (If anyone needs to learn this, it is me and you.)

So Ahmed’s Introduction is her way of teaching us to read ourselves better. Her main purpose in writing this text requires our labor: “Reading happiness would then become a matter of reading the grammar of this ambivalence” (6). I start thinking that she wants us to feel that maybe we don’t know how we feel, or we question our own feelings in the wrong way too much–that we live in an emotional skepticism. Or maybe our words about happiness fail to make happiness into the thing it really is.

I think so because maybe happiness is always an origin of what it can be. Such a thing of possibility certainly would remain eternally ambivalent to our desire. But that’s another chapter.

Theory and the Left: A Nighttime Reflection

Notes & Commentaries

Introduction
In this post, I intend to do something perhaps unpopular among the contemporary left: that is, to provide a conditional defense of Theory, with a capital T, and by implication the academy from the point of view of the radical left and its critiques. While the first part of this reflection will focus on the latter, this sets the stage for my discussion of the former; it is the need to defend theory for its own sake, the virtues of abstraction, and the recognition of the nature of knowledge and what this means for a radical view that animates my thoughts.

Much has been written about the ‘academic turn’ within Marxism – and radical thought more widely – as a corollary of the decline of a radical workers’ movement. Everyone is familiar with the way in which Marxism besides moved increasingly within the domain of professional theorizing from its…

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maybe you need to be stronger.

he’s finally sleeping now. it was one of those terrible nights that i guess both of us can expect to happen while his leg heals. i was picking him up off the floor to go on the couch; i had set him down and was going to lift his leg, but i tripped over it, and caused him to scream and cry in pain. i think this set his healing back to day one; i don’t know.

he was up all night crying out. even when he was sleeping, he was crying. i gave him medicine and it didn’t help. there’s nothing i can do.

it’s our anniversary today.

this whole year, i wanted nothing more than for us to be together by this point. i begged you to promise it. you took those words back in May, and now we aren’t even in the same heart, let alone the same place. you screamed you don’t love me anymore. and okay. i wish i knew what to do with all my love since it has nowhere to go. romantic homelessness and trash files.

i write to you here like it matters.

these fragments of thoughts and tiny spaces between my caring for him and my grading papers when i can write. i don’t know. if one more person tells me that all this is making me “stronger,” i might have to find a new clever way to tell them off. because stronger? what is that? i’ve seen every horror a person in america can see. i’ve lived every nightmare our country of privilege offers. what is there to be stronger from now? i’m not even strong enough to carry my son to the couch. and i do it anyway because

the people in Gaza are shivering in front of makeshift fires. the children in Syria are walking with sandals in the snow. god forbid i mention the survivors of the wedding massacre in Yemen. are they strong enough? for fucking what.

we’re strong enough not to commit suicide in the face of abject poverty, infirmary, or a hopelessness most of you reading this will never have to know. am i writing to my [ex]lover or a stranger? a friend? that’s funny. not one of my friends from “real life” has sent a text or a phone call. not a one. my best friend, who i met in twitter, is it. several of my activist friends from there check on me daily. i’d have given hope up too if it weren’t for them–people i barely know.

i lay in my bed thinking about Aaron. he did the unthinkable and left this horrible world before he imposed any more upon it. i realized that his action was one of bravery and courage. a ritual suicide, seppuku. he wasn’t going to take part in making this place any more than it already is.

so my son cried out that he wanted to die last night. he told me he doesn’t have a reason to live anymore. i held him. i kissed his too-warm forehead. i said nothing but “i love you.” because, for fucking sake, that’s all we really can say and do anymore.

though there’s so little of it left.

i watched the film Tom and Viv (it’s on Netflix if you want to catch it) this evening. my son and i followed each line, holding one another–he on the couch, me on the floor, my arm stretching up to grasp his tiny hand. we watched a man do the unthinkable to the woman he “loved.” my son tugged at my wrist, “mom, this is what he did. he loved you like people love money. he loved you until he could throw you away.”

i hadn’t told my son much about what happened, just that our family wasn’t a family anymore; that the man we both loved was gone and that he wasn’t coming back. i remind him over and over that it wasn’t him. it was me. like viv, a difficult woman isn’t easy to love. we see too much and feel too much.

the banality of life.

in everything.

odd. t.s. eliot was the poet then. i, the poet now. though poems haven’t come easily in a long time. i’m not sure they will again. it’s hard to write anything but narrative when there’s no one to talk with. all the running commentary just bounces off thoughts and multiplies. no fact checking. no appetite, but all hunger.

(i miss you

with everything.)

viv remained true to her vows and loved eliot for the rest of her life. 11 years in an insane asylum. i don’t question my own dedication, though i wonder how complacent i’ll be. after all, they don’t lock women like us up anymore; they simply walk away and leave us to our walls.

curses

Normally, I’d be happy to wake to the sound of rain. It pings on my roof; that’s how I know it’s there.

But today, I woke up cursing to myself. I’ll have to carry my son in this weather. The ice. His not waterproof splint.

The last final of the semester. Friday the 13th. I wasn’t superstitious until I loved someone who was. He cursed this year, cursing us. The last Friday the 13th of the 13th year. What I’d give to make it all go away.

Though I’m not suicidal. When I woke up and heard rain, I listened for signs that my son was okay–breathing. The kitten must have disturbed him, for he cried out in pain. I knew he was hurting but fine.

There are many moments like this I’ve had as a mom. Those times when I wake and wait to make sure my purpose for living–the human I made a being–is feeling better than I am. This morning, I held onto this wait and explored my fears.

What if he wasn’t okay?

What if something happened in the night and caused him to stop breathing?

Can he be lying in a position that could do that?

Why hasn’t he screamed out for me because he needs something?

Mothers know these questions well. And people who have never had children probably see them as ridiculous. Anyway, when I felt them and feared them, these questions comforted me by being there. I knew that no matter what happened to him, I’d be right there and make myself feel through it. What little else of my worst fears can come true (as I knock on wood) are left to come true.

He left us. I’m terrified of everything outside. The world hurts. My job feels pointless on most days in comparison to all this. The weather is against us. We are all alone in Kansas. All alone. I am all my son has in this world. He is all I have. I carry him to the bathroom. I carry him to the car. I carry him to the couch. His world is simply a minecraft fiction. Friends are only from afar. And love exists only in texts from strangers. Only these things.

This is life now. This is life now.