Day 159: Back in Germany

Mes amis digitales,

I have officially set up camp for the next few weeks in my mother’s house and while I am trying hard to get work done (and I will need to get a lot of it done), it is always rather difficult to not just sit around and relax, or play with my dog in my mother’s beautiful back yard. Just to give you an idea, I posted some pictures I took last night on flickr. They should appear soon in my sidebar (bottom right), or you can click on the link in the sidebar (“more photos”) to get to the cerebraljetsam flickr photos (or click this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cerebraljetsam/).

The flight here was quite an adventure. The food on Air India was actually great (if you like Indian food, that is, of course). I had lamb curry and it was among the best airline food I have had. Sadly, the aisle seat I had reserved apparently went to a higher bidder, so I had to sit smack in the middle of the middle row (oh, yes, the best seats on any long flight). Initially, I was glad that the people sitting next to me were small and skinny (something that cannot neccesarily be said about me–well, it is not that I am fantastically large but about 200 pounds @ about 6″1 just need a little more space on flights and am always uncomfortable, since the seats are too small for me). The initial excitement about the small people next to me faded very quickly, though, as the older gentleman on my left quickly colonized my space in a quite spactacular manner (probably thought I was British and launched a spatial payback-campaign). Pressing my arms tightly against my torso in order to leave him some room (“he’s older, let him have his space,” I thought) apparently still was not enough and so the nice older man began to elbow me (with a very skinny, thus pointy elbow!) in the arm and ribs, a workout regimen he surprisingly was able to keep up for the entire flight (scared of thrombosis, I assume–I was tempted to point out that the complete anti-thrombosis package should also include kicking me in the shins). In addition to this I had three little children behind me who kicked the back of my seat for about 7 of the 8 1/2 hours of the flight. At one point I almost fell asleep, an action that, of course, needed to be immediately corrected by the passengers surrounding me. In this case, the person correcting it was the child behind me who tried to climb on top of my seat (I had gotten used to that spiel at that point), slipped, fell and tried to secure himself by holding on to my hair. Good stuff! So much for sleeping. Needless to say I spent yesterday catching up on sleep and only got to set up my workspace this morning.

But I do have to say that I am quite relaxed, even after just one day of being here. The weather is nice, I had some good food, some good beer, went running/hiking with my dog and spent three hours napping while “watching” yesterday’s stage of the Tour de France. Today it’s back to work. I’ll keep you posted on the events over here, including my confrontations with small, old men.

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5 Comments

  1. Hey that doesn’t look like Germany at all! I wanna see mountains, man, mountains! And rivers. And RAVINES. That is a pretty sweet backyard though. And your dog is AWESOME.

    Well, I’ve been away for a while frolicking in the forest with MY dog AND listening to coyotes howling into the night. BEAT THAT (my bet is that you could). Anyway, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do, and have thus handcuffed myself to my laptop in order to get shite done. So I’m sorry to completely backtrack here, but I just wanted to make a quick comment on your Day 149 post, concerning our previous conversation (which you summarized very well btw). I specifically want to address what you said [in your comments section]–that theory and action cannot exist in isolation of each other (I agree. Separately they’re completely useless) and that “it becomes necessary to rigorously critically analyze the true problems we are facing, which demands a high level of theoretical discourse.”

    Well, I certainly agree with the first part, about the necessity of critically analyzing the true problems we are facing (which I think applies to the personal realm just as much as it does to the political realm) but I’m wondering exactly what you mean by “high level of theoretical discourse.” Do you mean analyzing our problems via theoretical models? If so, don’t you think that those conversations are then only limited to scholars, or in the very least, people who are interested in theory and philosophy?

    Thing is, most people aren’t theorists, or philosphers, and critical awareness doesn’t necessarily mean the capacity to understand one’s problems through any theory, because I think deep down, past all the complex theories and analyzations, we are dealing with a much simpler, very basic ‘human’ problem that I think can be investigated through simple conversation that questions/challenges, but in a language that people can understand and actually be directly affected by.

    And anyway, for philosphers to have come up with their theories, it had to have first started with an observation of reality. Perhaps they were challenged in some way and came to recognize the contradictions within themselves/their world, which had to have then led to a questioning of those contradictions, from which sprung insight. That is critical awareness as I understand it, but I don’t think conversation needs to be “theoretical” for that change, that ‘spark’ in perception to occur. Sometimes raising out contradictons could be as simple as asking a person who claims to “love animals” why they buy fur coats and therefore support suffering of the very things they say they “love.”

    Isn’t it all in the end just about helping people to see things for themselves?

    Anyway, glad to hear you made it safely across the world (despite some bruised ribs). I apologize ahead of time if I can’t respond right away, I going back home (again) because my baby’s having surgery and I want to be there with her. 😦

  2. ***by “baby” I mean my dog. MY DOG.

  3. Well, I cannot beat the coyotes howling into the night but there were some drunk Russian and German kids in front of our house last night who might quite a ruckus–does that count? I will try to take pictures of some mountains (and maybe of the occasional ravine) but the weather got kinda crappy and things are not as pretty at the moment.
    As fas as your critique of “high theory” goes, I tend to agree with your position. Just a few qualifiers: while overly complex theoretical models may indeed be somewhat impractical and tend to obscure things for people without an interest in disciplinary discussions, we should also not risk making theory and philosophy appear as something only accessible to intellectual elites (because, what is an intellectual elite if not primarily an economic elite?–hence not an index of intelligence but more of the possibility of being able to afford an education). Rather, these disciplines (as well as education in general) should be freely accessible to all citizens (or rather, all people in the world) and should be integrated into the democratic process–rather than simplifying theory we should strive to educate our masses, since I do believe that, given the chance, almost everyone would be interested, would understand and would be willing to engage in and practically apply rigorous theoretical analysis. Because, while you are right and some problems can be quite easily identified (ideologically, or otherwise), solutions often require a mugh higher degree of theoretical analysis and consideration of complexity, if we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past (one of the main initial concerns for you, I believe). In a way, this brings me back to a rather old and dusty idea it might be necessary to revamp and attach to a concrete political program (since it too often is only used as a catch-phrase): Gramsci’s “organic intellectual” (and the idea of organizing education to facilitate the development of intellectuals from the working class). See this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci
    But, as I said, I generally take your point that we cannot get bogged down in theoretical discourses that serve the main purpose of reproducing themselves as politically too often empty gestures.

    I hope you are getting some work done and I hope the surgery will go over well for your “baby.” What kind of “baby” do you have, by the way? My “baby” is just trying to climb onto my lap as I am typing this, since a thunderstorm is approaching and he is incredibly scared of loud noises (as he is of most everything else, for that matter). Thanks again for taking the time to respond! Have a good trip home.

  4. nuh_uh1 is a fabulous nick and the garden looks like one of the primmest and properest, Germanest garden’s I’ve seen in a while:-)

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you for the job market. if anyone knows that that’s a pain in the butt, that would be me.

  5. Hee, hee.–thanks! And thanks also for the crossed fingers regarding my job search–I am sure I will need it. I’ll share the chaos with you and we can collectively complain about our respective levels of frustration. 🙂


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