I want to ride my bicycle

25 11 2012

I hate writing, but I love having written.

I would never say that.

Having written is just fine—there is a satisfaction after finishing a long or difficult piece—but I don’t love it. And even with the satisfactions, there is also a kind of emptiness at the completion. I’m done is an occasion for melancholy and relief.

But writing? Hell yeah, I love writing. It’s even something beyond love: It’s as if I become who I am, that there is no distance between the being and the doing, that everything comes together in a moment of tumbling stillness. I disappear and am more there than I ever am, less a paradox than a transcendence, a clarity of purpose in which the purpose dissolves into itself.

Working out, on the other hand, yeah: I hate working out, but I love having worked out.

No, I don’t really hate working out, but I don’t really like it, either. I put up with it, because I don’t like what happens when I don’t. I want to be fit and reasonably trim and able to take care of myself, and so I work out. But the weightlifting and the bicycling and the stretching and all that?

Eh.

When I was younger I was fairly active, but I have no idea if I liked workouts or not. Maybe I did, or maybe I just didn’t think to ask whether or not I liked working out. I said I liked running, and, honestly, on my best days I still do like running, but did I really mean it? Did I really like lacing up the Brooks or Adidas or Saucony and wriggling into my jog bra and heading out to loop around the track or the neighborhood?

It’s possible, I guess, but this was probably a story I told myself as a way of crowbarring my sorry ass off the couch. I had an image of myself as more-or-less athletic, so I needed to say that I enjoyed partaking of athletic activities. Even if I didn’t.

Well, okay, I did like playing catch or shooting around, and I do enjoy taking bike rides with friends, but hauling myself on to my bike to lap around Prospect Park or over to the gym? Nope. Means to an end.

It’s good that I don’t hate weightlifting or biking, because I do like what they do for me: Nicer arms, stronger legs, increased endurance—and the sense that I’m not just a slug growing in Brooklyn.

But if I could accomplish all of that by napping? Oh, now that’s something I do enjoy.





We might as well try: Come to me, come to me, set me free, set me free

18 10 2012

Oh, for the love of all that is greasy and salty!

A federal court strikes down DOMA and Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast complains that the decision is. . . wait for it. . . too good.

TOO GOOD.

I’m a good American leftist, which means that I’m gloomy and pissy and rarely accused of optimism, but c’mon! This is is win!

Okay, maybe only a temporary win, maybe five members of the Supreme Court will decide that the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment doesn’t mean equal equal, y’know, equal for anyone who isn’t all regular and equal and everything (remember: gotta see the downside), but as Michaelson himself finally notes, “when it comes to the high court, you really never know.”

Oh really? After arguing that the standards of scrutiny two recent court rulings invoked in their reasons for overturning DOMA won’t be accepted by the Supremes, he finally gets around to noting:

It’s also worth stepping back from the legal details in cases like these. Intermediate scrutiny, narrowly tailored, suspect class … these legalisms are often critical to how the case turns out, but they don’t get to the human heart of the stories. What these cases are really about are widows like Edith Windsor who deserve equal rights. For her, of course, this case is an unqualified victory.

(Am I being churlish if I note that the victory is not “unqualified” if, in fact, the Supreme Court overrules it? I am not, because that is a matter of fact, not speculation. Unlike the rest of Michaelson’s higgledy-piggledy piece.)

I take inordinate pride in my scowl, and the side-eye I give the world is not an act, but even I think we leftists, liberals, and fellow-travellers might do ourselves a favor if we remembered the old cries of We want bread and roses, too! and If I can’t dance I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.

If we can’t find joy even in our wins, why the hell would anyone else want to join us?

Let’s leave the bitterness and fear to those who want to make our world smaller.

Let us be large. Let us embrace the whole, wide, messy world. Let us laugh and gambol around in the sand and leaves and snow. Let us throw our arms out to our fellow human beings and say there is so much more to to all of us, so much more for all of us.

Let us all be something more.





I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused

21 02 2012

Nope, not linking to that piece on the purpose of women.

Not because it’s a troll-in-a-post or ludicrous or page-view bait, but because it is so poorly written I cannot understand what he is saying.

Now, I might be offended if I could get through his When-in-the-course-of-Heidegger-skirts-barbarism-feminism-oh-look-a-pony style of, er, argumentation.

Or, y’know, I might just laugh.

Other bloggers have noted that beneath this pundit’s Potemkin’s pretensions is an appeal to natural law.

Natural law: the god-in-the-gaps explanation for all that eternally is when all that is eternally is turns out to be, not.

Jeremy Bentham offers the best riposte* to this sort of metaphysical mystification: Natural rights is simple nonsense; natural and imprescriptable rights, rhetorical nonsense—nonsense on stilts.

Now that’s a metaphor.

~~~~

*I know, not an argument, and he’s talking about natural rights, not law, but, goddammit, “nonsense on stilts” is just too good not to use.

h/t Commenter Spurious on this Crooked Timber thread, and SEK at Lawyers, Guns & Money





I didn’t want to do it

7 06 2011

I do not fucking want to write about Anthony Weiner—but here I am, writing about Anthony fucking Weiner.

He’s an idiot, and by this I mean: he’s an idiot.

Not a criminal, not a pedophile, not a man so vile he must be hounded out of Congress.

No, he’s a horny guy with poor horny-impulse control who as a high-profile warrior in our current political wars had to have known that taking him out (temporarily or permanently) would be a sweet, sweet success to combatants on the other side.

I do feel bad for his wife, but as I am not his wife, how his wife responds to him is really up to her. Not to me, not to anyone else.

I am not one of the recipients of his tweet-pics, and in no way have had any sort of relationship with him; how those women or the people who do have some sort of relationship with him is up to those women and others.

I am not (currently) one of his constituents, but if I were, I wouldn’t be demanding his resignation and, come the next election, if I thought he were the strongest candidate, I would vote for him.

And I think, really, his political future is up to him and his constituents, and whether they think his legal-but-idiotic actions indicate something political significant about his character or not may be one of the factors they consider in deciding whether or not to vote for him. That’s how it should be.

I may have mentioned once or twice or thirty times before that I care about policy. Policy policy policy. Shitty husband? Don’t care. Shitty mother? Don’t care. Asshole to your staff, kinda care, but I’ll take the asshole with the right (which is to say, left) legislative agenda over the sweetie with an authoritarian agenda. I might prefer that sweetie as a friend or neighbor, but as representative? No.

Nor would I in any way be shocked by a right-wing counterpart who cut her voting cards in a way exactly as I do. I’m irritated by do-as-I-legislate-not-as-I-do politicians, but I completely understand why a conservative voter might hold her nose and vote for the cheater/closet-case/hypocrite to prevent a non-conservative from winning.

I don’t have a whole lot of patience for those who excuse their side for engaging in the same behavior that they criticize in the other side, but even there, I get the rationale: My team is always right. (It’s a principle, I guess, albeit one rather absent of, er, principle, but tribalism has its role in both politics and sports.)

I’ve not-written an essay beginning with the phrase “Morality is ruining politics” for over a decade, but I actually do have a highly moral approach to politics: it is a morality based in the purpose of politics itself, which is to say, one rooted in the notion of the public good.

No, I won’t try to write that essay, here; instead, I’ll simply note that I take a compartmentalized as opposed to holistic approach to political character, that is, that I assign different moralities to different spheres of life. Yeah, this can lead to behavior at, say, work, which might appall one’s friends—compartmentalization my increase complication—and one line that could connect these different spheres is to strive, pace Aristotle, for excellence in each field, with the recognition that such excellence varies across those fields.

Virtue ethics folk tend toward holism: if you’re a wretch at home there’s likely spillover in other areas of life, perhaps to the point where moral failing in one sphere might disqualify you from participation in other spheres.

The problem with this approach is twofold: one, the evidence doesn’t support this (i.e., there’s plenty of evidence that bad people can do good things) and two, this assertion of one’s goodness can lead one to justify one’s actions on the basis of that goodness (or, good people can do bad things and excuse the badness of the act on the basis of the goodness of the person—a variation of the Euthyphro dilemma).

The virtue approach is particularly dangerous when comingled with power, to the point that one may rationalize truly horrific actions (see the history of abusive medical experimentation in the US, for example): Because we’re good what we do couldn’t possible be bad.

The compartmentalization approach isn’t perfect, either, and can lead to Gingrinchian rationalizations along the lines of I cheated on my wife because I loved America so much—although, on reflection, he’s actually engaging in a kind of reverse political-virtue ethics, to wit, I’m so good in politics you must forgive me for my private life.

Anyway, you can cover for political misdeeds using compartmentalized political language (my political convictions made me do it), but I also believe, in a way that I can’t quite articulate here, that the risks of unchecked abuse are lower with a narrow political morality than a wider all-encompassing morality.

In any case, I also think that the compartmentalized political morality approach works far better in a pluralistic society than in a more unitary one. We, the American people, do not share one comprehensive view of morality: we disagree not only on approach (comprehensive vs. compartmentalized—or, as I put in a long-ago post, the Legos-vs-coins approach) but on substance.  In short, the more points on which we demand agreement before we can work with one another, the less likely we’ll actually be able to work together.

And I think politics is a sphere for getting work done.

So if I ever move to Anthony Weiner’s district, my question to him will be: Are you getting work done?

If he is, and if I like the work, then what he does after work is really not my concern.








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