Praxis of Evil

Not sure how relevant this image is to my story.

I moved 5 times between the ages of 8 and 16.  While some transform this type of peripateticism into an ability to adapt into any situation, I transformed it into a means to feel isolated in any situation.

My first move was from Park Forest South to Flossmoor—2 generic, south-side-Chicago suburbs.  The former was lower-middle class, mixed race; the latter middle-to-upper-middle-class, mostly white.  This move went okay.  I adapted to my 3rd grade class fairly well, making friends easily.

Things went to shit on the 2nd move when my mom couldn’t afford Flossmoor anymore and we returned to Park Forest South 2 years after leaving.  There had been a white flight in our absence and I entered the 5th grade 1 of 2 white boys in the whole class.  All the friends I had left in 2nd grade dissociated themselves from me.  I was beat up daily, ostensibly because of the color of my skin, but surely abetted by my obvious sense of not belonging.

The 3 other moves—to the north side of Chicago for 3 years, then back to Flossmoor for 2 years, then to Boulder, Colorado for another 2—were the same situation in different locales.  I would be the new kid.  I might make a friend, usually some socially maladaptive kid.  That friendship would run its course.  And because I was never part of any clique, team or group, I would be isolated again.

Isolation became my default setting.  For much of my life, I shirked the need for friends and girlfriends for long stretches, sure people would eventually reject me.  It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that it occurred to me that I liked and wanted people in my life.   Continue reading “Praxis of Evil”

The 168 Hour Work Week and the Case for Irony

You too can flex in the mirror. Image via NY Times.

Here is a passage from the NY Times book review of Timothy Ferriss’s new book “The 4 Hour Body”:

He can use without irony…lines like: “I was enjoying French food and a bottle of Bordeaux with a 25-year-old female yoga instructor new to San Francisco, fresh from the Midwest.” This poor woman lets slip that she’s unable to have an orgasm. Mr. Ferriss, as any humanitarian would, makes it a point to fix this problem for her. “I was able to facilitate orgasms,” he writes, “in every woman who acted as a test subject.”

I started writing a diatribe about Ferris’s passage, but I stopped myself.  After all, I haven’t read the book.  Despite what I might think about this passage, I wish him and his readers the hardest bodies.  May his words heal the masses.

But I think the Times reviewer nails it.  It wasn’t so much what Ferriss wrote, but the way he wrote it, i.e. “without irony.”  As Oscar Wilde put it, “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”

The world is bloated with sincerity.  Look through most newspapers and all you see is sincerity and its evil cousin, seriousness.  We read headlines about Wikileaks and oil-spills and crazed gunmen and we absolutely know the world is screwed.

But what if the answer to all the world’s woes isn’t more sincerity, more seriousness, more knowledge?  Knowledge dooms.  Knowledge is a record of what has been, and what likely will be.  We know we are screwed because we have been.  Knowledge seldom permits what could be, because what could be cannot be known.  It hasn’t happened yet.

What if instead of more sincerity, seriousness and knowledge, the world needed more irony?  The Greek root of irony is “eirōneia,” meaning simulated or feigned ignorance.  What if even the small act of pretending to not know has the power to loosen our grip on the doomed nature of reality?  What if irony was the key to transformation?

Let me explain what I mean in a very sincere fashion. Continue reading “The 168 Hour Work Week and the Case for Irony”