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"Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than itís worth.
~ Mary Schmich
From Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

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Sunday, June 12, 2011
Thoughts about later

What was I trying to do with this place again?

Who is it that's going to show up here next?

Maybe let me know.

Suddenly I'm done with undergraduate schooling. Said to someone a few days ago I that I guess I'm supposed to be done with the part of school that's a process of discovery; supposed to move on to school as skill-acquisition. Some thoughts about that follow.

Somewhere in that undergraduate process I remember reading an essay about how my generation is characterized by its being "post-everything". That is, what makes us a generation is our refusal to take a stand on anything; if we stand on anything, its that we stand on not being anything. That did and does seem a decent way of putting things. However, now I think there's a bit more to be said.

We were post-everything when it became more fashionable to level criticisms of positions at everything than to gallantly defend anything, but "positions" were fairly transient things. Positions on fashion, religion, politics, tastes in film, theater, television - one could be post all these things and still have a sense of meaning, because one could still gain a skill-set, a job, a relationship. Five or ten years ago (in my circles at least), having a girlfriend, a certain degree, a certain job didn't represent any sort of position on anything.

Why do these things represent positions now? Because suddenly, society looks so much more broken. The institutions that looked at least a bit solid before now provide a map of corruption that leads down from vile, confused people at the top to all the particular ways of living that we can suddenly see as supporting the confusion, the vileness.

Is it really possible that monogamy, specialization, and production are all devices of alienation, tranquilization, separation - devices that support a broken status quo? It certainly didn't seem so a few years back. Less clear now. How can I keep up with geopolitics, the new analyses of the history I thought I understood, revolutions around the world, and the thousand new developments in the art world in a dozen different languages and cultures if I spend any amount of time learning about some specific field? How can I find time to acquire skills in these multiple languages, arts, and the electronic apparatus required to keep track of their developments if I'm working any job in particular? How can I keep my emotions and projects grounded in any kind of rationality (though I'm made to be suspicious of this word) if I buy into either the giant bag of emotional expectations that comes with typical monogamous relating or the huge emotional tax of trying to make something more nuanced work? Won't any relationship just make me so vulnerable that I'll fall prey to the veritable industry of emotive-projects-as-consumption-as-insecurity-as-more-consumption?

A solution seems to present itself. One just needs to dabble in these things enough to avoid the depression of not having projects while simultaneously directing ones dabbling well enough to acquire a skill-set and emotional intelligence suited to navigating the foreseeable future.

Except... What's that future again?

What is it exactly that people are going to be using their minds to do? What won't we pawn off to computers? Do I need to speak French? Do I need to be able to do math? Should I be able to teach it, or will I just get a computer to do that? What resources are going to be scarce in a decade? What are schools going to look like? How many medical workers will there be, and how many medical robots? What kind of initial investment of (probably stolen) capital is it going to take to enter an eventual virtual world? Are people going to read? Are they going to watch films? What can I expect the teenagers of the next decade to know?

The most serious problem of my generation seems, in my mind, to have shifted. Some smallish number of years ago, we were post-everything because it was stylish. Now, I think we're also pre-nothing. It makes even less sense to take up the typical projects, and we can't see what atypical ones will be of any use because we can't see past the end of the year. Hell, we can't see past the end of the month.

Who's got a project that makes sense? I want to steal their idea.

Posted at 10:59 pm by arvencheese


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