Monday, May 13, 2013

The Great Risk

The farther I progress into graduate school, the more I worry about sharing my poetry and short stories. It's as if the struggle to attain ultimate clarity seeps into my artistic inclinations, and makes me think that vagueness (and sometimes richness) of expression is inferior to precision. Or perhaps it's the fear of sharing one's thoughts, all of one's thoughts, and one's emotions. You see, emotions often lack justification, although they typically have triggers which remain constant over (periods of) an agent's life. These inclinations are only human (all too human, at that). As such, I think it's the responsibility of an artist to give expression to that she feels--for many of us feel much the same.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Virginia Woolf

“Is the true self this which stands on the pavement in January, or that which bends over the balcony in June? Am I here, or am I there? Or is the true self neither this nor that, neither here nor there, but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give the rein to its wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves?” — Virginia Woolf, Street Haunting: A London Adventure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Emily Dickinson

Color - Caste - Denomination - These - are Time's Affair - Death's diviner Classifying Does not know they are - As in sleep - all Hue forgotten - Tenets - put behind - Death's large - Democratic fingers Rub away the Brand - If Circassian - He is careless - If He put away Chrysalis of Blonde - or Umber - Equal Butterfly - They emerge from His Obscuring - What Death - knows so well - Our minuter intuitions - Deem unplausible

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rest in Peace, Ye Maker of Worlds.

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Is a star which brilliantly burns any less beautiful for its failing to be perceived by human eyes? And I, the most paltry of things. So too, this moment passes. So too, this moment fades. (I love you, I love you, and fear your passing gaze.) Though life leads unto death, this 'I', for now remains. As when seeking to comprehend, sight is lost, and sight is gained.

[Measure yourself against these words, for pride is cast and love now reigns.]

Monday, March 12, 2012


To hone awareness as one does a prized and oft-used knife yields a weapon far subtler than the finest of blades. For through it the woods speak and the mountains groan, the sky dances and the sun sings. But awareness, as the sharpest knife, often slips from the hands of its bearer and deeply cuts. Its weight, though finely balanced, bears greatly on the mind which comprehends, and the bridge which separates One from All seems arduous and not easily tread.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gregory Currie, "Narrative Desire"

I. In “Narrative Desire”, Gregory Currie hypothesizes that an agent who desires some X in the imagination might be inclined to desire X in reality. This includes, but is not limited to, the imagination required to engage in film, literature and other fictions. And although we typically conceive of fictional desires as being both healthy and aesthetically sophisticated, we often regard fictional desires as being undesirable in relation to the ‘real world’. So, fictional desires may prove harmful insofar as they might lead to directly harmful desires.

This hypothesis relies on a distinction which Currie draws between character desires and narrative desires. I will begin by outlining this distinction and will thereafter explicate the important role which it plays in Currie’s argument as a whole.

II. Currie begins “Narrative Desire” by distinguishing between two classes of fictional desire: character desires and narrative desires. We might classify character desires as the desires which an agent holds in relation to a particular character or set there of. Narrative desires, on the other hand, are the desires which an agent holds in relation to a fiction’s over-arching narrative. On the first interpretation, I desire that Rick and Ilsa continue their romance (character desire); on the second, I desire that Casablanca be a narrative in which Rick and Ilsa continue their romance (narrative desire). But we also hold many desires which are not constrained by the realm of the imagination. Currie thus distinguishes between fictional desires and the desires we hold in relation to family and friends, ourselves and the world in which we live.

Desires concerning friends (or family, or one’s career, etc.) and those concerning fictional characters differ not only in that they pertain to different focus-groups; they differ in that one hesitates to call desires concerning fictional characters desires at all. The problem may be summed up as follows: broadly construed, desires are based upon a belief, the relevant sort of which is lacking in the case of fictional characters. I do not believe that Anna Karenina exists out there, ‘in the real world’, so I don’t believe that she can be harmed. How can I be concerned about some character Y in situation X if I don’t believe that Y was ever in X? Currie thus distinguishes between desires which exist in the scope of an imagining, and desires which are not so restricted. My desire that Anna Karenina be happy is within the scope of an imagining; my desire that my parents be happy is not.

However, we often desire particular outcomes in relation to narratives which we construct about ourselves and others. Consider, for example, day dreams. Interestingly, these desires often conflict with the desires we hold in relation to ourselves and others. This further complicates the interplay between character desires and narrative desires, for we might hold both outside of the realm of fiction.

III. Now that we understand the distinction which Currie draws between character desires and narrative desires, we are in a position to examine Currie’s larger claim (that being, an agent who desires some X in the imagination might be inclined to desire X in reality). So how might fiction influence the desires which I hold in relation to real people and events? According to Currie, fiction might influence an agent’s desires concerning real people and events insofar as fiction a.) makes available thought-contents which were previously unavailable to the subject, b.) vividly depicts scenarios which lend specificity to previously underdeveloped desires, and c.) depicts a certain state of affairs that elicits a pleasurable response and, in turn, causes the viewer to desire a state of affairs which is relevantly similar to that depicted.

Although we lack solid empirical evidence, these three conditions provide us with sufficient reason to believe that an agent’s desiring some X in the imagination inclines her to desire X in reality. And if this is plausible, then works of fiction that encourage individuals to imaginatively desire a ‘bad’ thing B (say, the desire that someone suffer humiliation) may strengthen B to the point at which B becomes a real desire on which an agent is prepared to act.

Furthermore (and as has been shown), the narratives in which we imaginatively engage suggest to us narratives in which we play roles. And in such narratives, we often cast others into roles subsidiary to our imaginative wants. An agent who spins narratives involving coercion is thus more likely to engage in instances thereof than an agent who does not.

To conclude, the imagination is not a hermetically sealed inner world which lacks implications for behavior. Fictional desires may in fact prove harmful insofar as they might lead to directly harmful desires. In the words of Siddhartha Gautama: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”
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