Day 9

I expressed, in an earlier post my new found love of Timothy Morton.  In this writing I take one of his ideas (strange strangers) and place it over the article (also referenced in an earlier post) “There’s a Gene for That.”

 

Timothy Morton’s book “The Ecological Thought” introduces the concept of “strange strangers.”  For Morton, the strange strangers are the gaps found within the “mesh” (interconnectedness of all things) and they cannot be defined or labeled.  “The strange stranger, conversely, is something or someone whose existence we cannot anticipate.  Even when strange strangers showed up, even if they lived with us for a thousand years, we might never know them fully – and we would never know whether we had exhausted our getting-to-know process” (Morton 42).  These “strange strangers” are the uncanny and each time we try to pin them down other “strange strangers” appear.

This concept is difficult for me to grasp, so I have chosen to utilize this notion in my readers response, with the thought it will push me to try to understand the vast connotations this theory suggests.

An article, written by Pankaj Mehta, immediately came to mind while reading about “strange strangers.”  Mehta is discussing the problems of biological determinism, such as racism, sexism, classism and he suggests “there is a gene for just about every inequality and inequity in modern society.” [1]  Mehta goes on to claim,  “[a]rmed with large genomic datasets and an arsenal of statistical techniques, a small but vocal band of scientists are determined to hunt down the genetic basis of all we are and all we do.” He goes on to say “… the genetic determinist’s playbook in the genomics era is clear: Collect mass quantities of sequence data. Find an ill-defined trait (like political preference). Find a gene that is statistically overrepresented in the sub-population that “possesses” that trait. Declare victory. Ignore the fact that these genes don’t really explain the phenotypic variance of the trait. Instead, claim that if we only had more data the statistics would all work out. Further generalize these results to the level of societies and claim they explain the fundamental genetic basis of human behavior.”

These scientists are continually seeking “The” answer to biological difference/sameness.  The gaps, or unfamiliar, is what genetic scientist are trying to chase down and make familiar.  Genetic determinist research is in a stage of “getting to know” process that can only reveal more unfamiliarity.  Morton would insist “[e]ven if biology knew all the species on Earth, we would still encounter them as strange strangers, because of the inner logic of knowledge.  The more you know about something, the stranger it grows” (Morton 17).  The argument could be made once a species has been identified and the more you try to understand that one species, the less you will know or understand about the identified species.

Mehta states “[b]iological determinism seems plausible precisely because it gives the illusion that it is grounded in scientific observation.”  Morton would agree and take this thought even further by stating, “the trouble with pure semblance is that it’s like an illusion … Monstrousness and illusoriness go together” (Morton 74).

In essence, when scientist seek out the “strange stranger” they are categorizing and trying to contain these illusory ideas, creating greater harm to the “strange stranger” which, as suggested earlier, could very well be ourselves.

Categories are typically created for inclusion or exclusion and for Morton “[r]ather than a vision of inclusion, we need a vision of intimacy.  We need threshold, not spheres or concentric circles, for imagining where the strange stranger hangs out” (Morton 78).

Mehta points out the problems of biological determinism by illustrating the harms it can create by inequality and power due to our capitalist structures.  Morton would expound further and say that by narrowly focusing our interest of the “mesh” to biology alone, we have limited our view of interconnectedness.  “At its limit, it [the ecological thought] is a radical openness to everything.  The ecological thought is therefore full of shadows and twilights” (Morton 15).

Ultimately, there is nothing “natural” about anything.  Science will not find why boys may be “naturally” inclined for aggression.  Science will not find why girls may be “naturally” inclined to be submissive.  Nature is the strange stranger and the more we try to unveil her/his/its “nature” the more “unnatural” it will become.  Life (in all forms) is a messy jumbled monster enmeshed in interconnectedness that does not allow to be quantified.


[1] Mehta, Pankaj, “There’s a Gene for That”, jacobinmag.com.

4 Comments

Filed under My thoughts, School

Day 8

Alicia Rizzi and Marcy Taylor

We met in jail.  You read that right!  We both worked for Weber County Sheriff’s Office, as correctional officers, when we struck up an intense friendship.  From that friendship the most magnificent relationship was forged.  For the last 9 years we have had the privilege of not only being partners, but being best friends as well.

When thinking of how to put on paper our story, it felt impossible.  How do you show the middle of the night comforting sessions for our children when they get sick or have bad dreams?  How do you render, with proper timbre, the family singing songs in the car while traveling across so many states for family vacations?  How do you articulate the pain of homophobic slurs being hurled at a family of five minding their own business in a bookstore?

Instead of using my words to explain our relationship, I reached out to family and friends to explain who we are.  This is what they had to say:

“Two people who love, balance, honor and respect one another just as they are. Never trying to change the other, just completely supportive and unbreakable!!!”

“You are two of the most supportive, strong hearted, encouraging, nurturing women I’ve had the fortune to meet, making a life together against the odds. The beauty lives in the way you approach life together and it overflows to those lucky to know you.”

“Two souls entwined, balancing and complimenting each other. Two people who love, honor, respect, support and challenge each other and in doing so, touch all who know them. They make me smile and get a warm glow in my heart.”

It was on a December evening, as I sat with friends at a local pub, that Rizzi asked me to marry her.  I was unaware of the changes made by the Federal courts, invalidating Amendment 3.  It took no thought.  Of course I would marry the person I had already committed myself to.

On Christmas Eve our family (kids, parents, sister and her family) arrived at the home of Amy Wicks, a city council member for Ogden City.  It was a bitter sweet day.  The rush to marry, before a stay was put in place, had me angry.  This is not how I imagined we would marry one another.  I wanted a party.  I wanted a Halloween wedding, with costumes, black cakes and an open bar.  I wanted written wedding vows that would make my parents cry.  I wanted to be treated normal.  I wanted to be something more than a rush job.  But as we faced each other, staring into the eyes of the woman I have loved for nine years, the wants disappeared and the realization that we would be protected legally set in.  I cried.  She cried.  And as we kissed and our tears intermingled, I realized our family was protected.  As I hugged our kids a new notion of taking care of them was born.  Our kids would no longer be relegated to status of “other”, as they could proudly proclaim their moms as married.

But the euphoria would only last 17 days.  The insurance card in her wallet, that claims she is single, will remain a lie until the court process is completed.  Our children hang in legal limbo.  But what is sustained are the very things my friends and family wrote about our relationship.  We still love with a fierceness that can never be defined by paper.  We still respect, love, cherish and enjoy our day to day family life.  That euphoria will remain much longer than 17 days.  It will take an eternity for us to be apart.

2 Comments

Filed under My thoughts, Relationships, Story Time

Day 7

I will be speaking at a rally next Tuesday at the capitol, so a lot of my time is spent writing and refining it, so this post will be short.

I will, however, share a funny public transportation story.  While getting on Trax I overheard a woman say to her companion (also a woman), “did you hear that?”  The companion answered no.  “It was a helicopter circling, which can only mean one thing … the police.”  The companion, without hesitation, agreed that it was a bad omen.  Meanwhile, I”m acting like I am reading my book because, well … I don’t want in on the craziness.  Of course they had a petition in their laps, which meant they would be hitting me up soon for a signature.  Within 30 seconds of being seated these women asked if I’d sign a petition.  When I asked what it was for they explained that it was for the Independent American Party.  When I asked what their platform was they had no answer … NONE!  They seemed stumped by the question.  One of the ladies pulled out a card with 10 platforms.  The first read, “That God will be brought back into everyones life.”  The second stated that socialism will be eradicated and the third stated they would bring back traditional marriage.  I didn’t bother reading the rest of them.  I explained I wasn’t interested nor did I subscribe to any of their platform statements.  Needless to say, they wanted to “convert” me.  The conversation was long, but when they finally figured out I was “one of those gay people” they were stunned.  They went as far to say that I “seemed so nice.”  My comeback.  Yeah, you both seemed so nice yourself, I mean you have a dog picture on your hat, who would have known you subscribe to Nazi notions of creating separate “containment” areas for gays.

It was a long day …

1 Comment

Filed under My thoughts

Day 6

Those that know me understand that I am a true eclectic at heart.  Those that know me, also know there a few things that I go crazy over.  Like, immerse myself and become almost obsessive about.  This really is a rarity, as I tend not to be able to focus on one thing.  For those that don’t know my list of “obsessions” they would include:

Books!  This seems so obvious I hesitated writing it.  Every time I enter a book store it is a study in bipolarity.  In one sense it is the happiest place I could ever be, but it also depresses me to think that I won’t be able to read all books before I die.

Bertrand Russell!  I love him so much that if I even imagine that I’m meeting him I cry.

Dogs!  I want to kiss every dog I see. (Just ask any person that posts a picture of a dog on Facebook.)

Edgar Allan Poe!  Ever since a childhood friend (Kelli) read to me Tell Tale Heart, at the age of nine, I’ve been addicted.

Ravens!!!  No really, I love them so much!  When I went to London this past summer I spent HOURS watching them.  When I touched Merlina I cried.  And smiled.  And cried.

Theodor Adorno!  What a brilliant man.  I have read “Cultural Industry” too many times to count.  If you haven’t taken the time to read this essay, you are missing out!

Rachmaninoff!  Most of you know (or maybe you don’t) that I don’t subscribe to the label or concept of hope.  The closest I come to being “hopeful” is when I listen to Rachmaninoff.

And a new addition:  Timothy Morton.  This man is alive!  I could realistically meet him (yeah, theorists/philosophers are my “rockstars”.)  His take on the environment and nature have me thinking, with a more critical lens, what nature is and how we go about making a impact on our “environment.”

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under My thoughts

Day 5

Do you have friends that hold you accountable?  Friends that will call you out when you start to slack or don’t perform at your best potential?  If so, hold onto them with all your might!  If not, create and cultivate friendships where a person can tell you when you are being a fool, lazy, wonderful, amazing and just be an overall barometer for your emotional/physical health.

I was lying in bed, after reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “Black Cat” (HAPPY BIRTHDAY POE!!) to the family, watching videos of paragon falcons with mounted videos on their heads as they hunt crows.  To be privy to their point of view is alarming and beautiful!  While losing myself in the flight of fancy I receive a text.  Here is what it said:  “I thought for a minute you became a JW then it was ‘oh she’s keeping the sabbath.”  Then I remembered your an atheist which means your 3 days behind on writing.  Not even a cop out line.  How many more before you need to start over?  You’re at 50% now???”

William Hobbs, thank you for keeping me at my word.  Thank you for calling me out AND refusing to take my “cop outs” as an excuse.  It seems that if I have time to watch crows be chased to their doom, I have time to sit down and, at a minimum, type a thank you.  Too often we placate others, for various reasons, one being fear of confrontation.  I, however, look for people who will call my bluff and have civil dialogue.  Every person should be so lucky to have one of these friends.  I have surrounded myself with them, as I feel that they are a reflection of myself that I am not privy too.

And though I never started this blog with the goal of having a large readership (which I still don’t have) knowing one person looks forward to what you have to say makes my goal of 100 writings more pleasant and gives me motivation.  THANKS HOBBS!!

3 Comments

Filed under My thoughts, Thinking of Friends

Day 4

Remember, when I started this venture, I said there may be a day that I only write a sentence or two, but that I would try my hardest to write something?  Yeah, well, I’m not coming up with anything good to talk about.  No interesting articles, no burning issues, no real substance that I feel needs to be written about today.  So with that … have a fanfuckingtastic day!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Day 3

As I made my way through the introduction and first chapter of “The Ecological Thought” by Timothy Morton my heart was racing.  Each page felt like a new enchantment revealing itself to me.  The text felt like it held secrets I have never been privy too.  It is the water I have craved in an often-parched life.  I was so thirsty I read the whole book in one afternoon.

In the introduction Morton states, “Like the shadow of an idea not yet fully thought, a shadow from the future (another wonderful phrase of Shelley’s), the ecological thought creeps over other ideas until nowhere is left untouched by its dark presence” (Morton 2), and much like ivy, this sentence and all that proceeded it, wound around me, at times suffocating and at other moments comforting.

I have made so many assumptions about nature and its “true” essence.  Morton forces me to examine those assumptions, without apology, and begins to break down the dangers of those cultural assumptions.  There are some theories Morton discussed that aren’t clear to me yet, but they beg to be understood.  When he speaks of strange strangers I feel a shadow of understanding forming, and each new reading brings me closer to realizing what Morton is trying to convey.

Much like Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness” Morton is asking us to slow down, to “break down the distinction between Sunday afternoon and every other day, and in the direction of putting a bit of Sunday afternoon into Monday morning, rather than making Sunday a workday.”

Everything about this book has me viewing my surroundings in a different light.  Reading the news has taken on an entire different lens.  Taking my weekly drive up Ogden Canyon has a different meaning and feeling of connection than my past experiences.  This entire book has caused such a cosmic shift in my thinking that I find it difficult to think about anything else.  It is consuming me and I enjoy every second of letting my mind play with the concepts Morton has presented.  I cannot think of one book that has had this major of an impact on my whole of thinking.  It even trumps WG Sebald “Rings of Saturn.”  The only problem I’m finding with this text is that it has turned into a quest to read more, which is not going to be conducive to my other courses/grades.

Leave a comment

Filed under My thoughts