During my tender college years, I read a few volumes that made me miserable and temporarily unable to function, the effects of which I’m arguably still suffering. But that’s what getting your mind blown feels like, DEH. Read on to do an overhaul on your own brains! If you don’t feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under you, you’re not trying hard enough.
kind of a babe, actually.
My “freshman year of college,” I was just a young pup of a sentient human, “getting into Cat Power” and realizing that I didn’t learn anything in high school aside from the fact that being a size-two neurotic is the path to success. Well fuck them! I’m into philosophy now! Little did I know what a slippery slope I was sledding.
One ordinary Tuesday, with that particular brand of baseless smug found in abundance and exclusively in dark-haired liberal arts college freshmen running through my veins, I decided to go for a run that afternoon (efforts toward armchair microbrew drunk wouldn’t begin in earnest until I completed my studies, thus at this juncture my extracurriculars were still wholesome and fitness-centric) (I also harbored a middle-school crush on a similarly smug and dark-haired peer, who identified himself as an “deist existentialist” [HA] and looked like a j.crew model. Weirdly, it went nowhere).
Before my own attempts at remaining a size-two neurotic could commence that day, however, I had a philosophy class to attend: Ethics 105. We’d covered utilitarianism (I’m a utilitarian!) the rebuttal to utilitarianism (ok, I’m not!) and on this occasion were delving into the finer points of Camus’ absurdity from our reader, The Moral Life. Our discussion basically resulted in the acknowledgement of the truth that there’s no point to life, so we might as well kill ourselves. Or at least that’s how my barely-post-adolescent brain absorbed the day’s lesson, and my nascent cerebrum was blown all over the wood paneling of our classroom. In a bad way. I promptly went back to my cinder-block dorm room and got into bed. No run would be had that day.
I spent the rest of the year writing in my journal and fantasizing about dropping out of school/life, with only my self-righteousness and the Shins to fuel me through June. It was around then that I recovered, having clumsily distilled Sartre’s existentialism (for my own purposes of having a good time all the time) into “life ‘doesn’t matter’ in the sense that there’s no afterlife SO WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT!” This “philosophy” has served me well to this day. (I also learned that if you drop an approximation of basically that in conversation with approximately 97% of people, they’ll think you know what you’re talking about.) Then I transferred to a state school and learned how to talk to boys.
Thanks Griel! Now I believe that not wanting a job is a moral imperative.
Also at my state school of choice, which mercifully had no football team, a small Greek scene and enough bearded babes to fill the non-existent stadium, I would ride my first wave into the whirlpool of armchair anarchy and attempt to navigate the ensuing downward spiral. A teenage obsession with Rolling Stone led me to deeper, darker annals of various subcultures (hey, I checked out Naked Lunch, man), beat poetry and living vicariously through the cocaine-fueled misadventures of the Rolling Stones et al. My repressed tendencies toward existential anarchy began to blossom around this time, as a postmodern fiction class proved the falseness of our world is its only true defining quality. (I’m sure my flirtation and eventual commitment to intellectual anarchy has something to do with having been half-assedly raised Catholic/reading too many teen mags and as a result not liking my nose, and could have been cured by a boyfriend/eating disorder but WHOLE NOTHER STORY). I ditched my homework to tear through Delillo, oral histories of 70s London, Warhol’s aphorisms, accounts of eastern European anarchist memoirs and Baudelaire– DOES THIS BROAD KNOW HOW TO PARTY OR WHAT. (I cringe at that list; I now know I should have been drunk and making mistakes like everyone else, and would not recommend being overly-read to anyone, ever, as it only leads to debilitating hyper-self awareness.) It was around this time that I checked out Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by Griel Marcus from the university library. My life would never be the same. Already rendered an insomniac by All The Ways In Which The World Will End, as was my chosen course of study, Marcus’ account of post-WWI European anarchists, dadaists, Situationists and the revolution of 1968 convinced me that a) a better world is possible and b) that it will never happen. COOL, NOW I CAN SLEEP. So I started making art like this:
besides having an enormous impact on American culture in general, this brilliant send-up of consumerism/objectification of women will be shown at the Whitney. nah jk, I think it’s kinda cool still.
Continuing my path of Postmodern study and thinking I was a key factor in the Revolution, (um, Chinese kids melt down our laptops for metals with acid baths that they breathe in, guys) (no, seriously), I got kind of into contemporary leftist European thought; the shining gem in that crown being the one, the only, Jean Baudrillard. This guy will RUN A TRAIN ON YR MIND S00 HRD. He throws around terms like hyperreality and simulacra to illustrate his key thesis that (and I’m paraphrasing here) everything is like, fake, because it’s a construct of something real, which we recreate to experience something “realer.” I.e. Southern California is HYPERREAL AS FUCK; it’s a desert that humans turned into Eden so that they could ignore the crushing vacancy of the human soul in the modern world. Or something.
Really interested in the pursuit of denying the goodness of life in general (but in a totally lame, uncommitted way, because I still had friends and stuff) I decided to acquire a copy of Baudrillard’s America for myself. In this book, he deconstructs the image of a man running on the beach with a Walkman as a symbol of the End of A Society, the Harbinger of the Apocalypse, oh except that’s already happened, obviously.
Sample quote: “The marathon is a form of demonstrative suicide, suicide as advertising: it is running to show you are capable of getting every last drop of energy out of yourself, to prove it… to prove what? That you are capable of finishing. Graffiti carry the same message. They simply say: I’m so-and-so and I exist! They are free publicity for existence.”
Obviously a natural choice for a 21-year-old American with nothing but a bright future ahead as her birth rite. YES TO LIFE!I basically couldn’t describe a concept, place or material object as anything but “hyperreal” for the ensuing year or so. Which is totally sexy, obviously.
After having my cranium rocked by these tomes, I eventually devoted my entire existence to the pursuit of getting made out with whilst wearing jorts. Baudrillard is turning in his grave over people like me, but he probably never went to a dance party. PLUS, at least I have an abundance of fodder just in case I ever meet anyone who’s also a recovering psyche-destroying book junky (call me).
The point, of course , of all this reading (living in general, really) is to construct one’s own toolkit with which to take on the world. Open your mind, let the infinite in and build your own haven of beautiful truths.
Keep reading, yallz!
❤ hyperreality 4 lyfe ❤