March 10, 2002

reflect your name in the snow

My main quarrel with college seems to boil down to an overemphasis on rationality and a deemphasis on developing the self. For instance, writing an essay gives you great argumentative skills. You are forced to take a stand on an issue, logically back it up with evidence, and use effective rhetoric to reinforce your point. A lot can be said for people that have convictions and can back them up with examples and rational thought. They’re called lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, etc.

Logic is a common thread among humans. Most of us can exercise logic and most can recognise logic when another person is using it. If you can appeal to another person’s sense of logic you can get them to agree with you (or at the very least have a common ground for communication). Generally, if you jive with logic there is a very good chance your actions will be justified. A cool, calm and collected use of intellect is the easiest and safest way to interact with the world. Say you are in a band and arguing over how to play a song. The best way to have the situation turn in your favor is to systematically go over the points of why your interpretation of the song is better. The composer intended the song to be played like this, the audience will enjoy this style more, the individual strengths and weaknesses of the band members coincide with my interpretation… Done. Unless the other members had better arguments, you now have the band eating out of your hand.

Another argumentative approach would have been yelling and cursing, which signifies a breakdown in rational thought and would only enrage the rest of the band. Such a violent release of emotion will not convince others of your view one iota, unless they are college freshmen and easily impressed by loud. Logic can be very clever tool for externalizing the human spirit, and can ensure the way you hear the song is your head is how it will sound to the audience. The better you are at making people trust in your judgement, the better chance you have of seeing your ideas come to fruition.

But in the end, logic is nothing, really. It is just an intellectual framework and does not create, nor destroy. Logic just is, and all that matters is how you use it. The talented can apply logic like a poustice to a wound or like a hammer to the forebrain. It can be damningly effective at what it does, but logic hardly deserves the full attention it gets in college. Logic requires ideas, but ideas can only be derrived from knowledge and experience. As a mere framework, logic offers neither.

Argumentation and logic teach me nothing except how to organize my personal thoughts so I can communicate them to others. I feel bad using the word logic, as I don’t think my beef is with logic itself but how college teaches it in a hidden, dry manner that is devoid of the human spirit. If I spend all my time organizing, there is no room for actual growth. There is a difference between exercising the mind and organizing the mind, and so far this semester my mind is developing the most frail, pestilent limbs. My spirit pines away malnourished, and soon there’s nothing left to externalize. Instead of rambling away with the usual free associations, wit and irony, my brain becomes a barren wasteland of theses and antitheses, arguments and examples. All my thought becomes rational and presupposed, and I stop surprising myself with new ideas. Any new thought that comes along is a logical “Oh Duh,” that I take no pleasure in taking credit for. I could clean and organize my room for years, but if I don’t get any new posters, cigar boxes or pictures of fat men riding turtles, it will always look the same as ever.

I feed on randomness, and the only mental exercise college allows in that regard is trying to explain why I like it. As I said a few days ago, the exercises used to be fun, but now I no longer feel the personal benefit in coming up with arbitrary answers to things that need no explanation. Randomness is a troubling pleasure, as it is unjustified in an evidential sense. There is no reasoning at work here; if I think it’s funny, it’s good. Randomness is a core feature of my spirit, and it gets no attention from Academia, which seems to rely on a less is more philosophy. The more you can reflect on one idea in class, the fewer ideas you need to introduce and the easier analysis becomes. Randomness is all about more is more. It requires a saturation of crazy objects and ideas, and is fully actualized in a situation where the mind can’t even comprehend the innate randomity at hand.

You sit at a picnic bench during lunch at work, Hard Core Guy exits the building and balances along the curb in his running uniform and flip-down sunglasses, your friend gets hit in the head with a frisbee, and finally a kid comes riding around the parking lot on a stand-up bicycle. You pause for a moment and say, “This place is so weird,” and you call it the best lunch ever. Explain that in your thesis.

So I like rocks, Cheez-its, plastic rats, Curious George, John Wayne, writing my name in the snow, Ax Man, jam music and Schwan’s ice cream treats. Big friggin’ deal. I want more thoughts and less reflection. Reflection is for losers that don’t have enough thinking to do.