Fara On Vagueness

NYT magazine on Delia Graff Fara:
"Fara’s theory, which she presented in a 2000 paper called “Shifting Sands,” had an answer. She argued that vagueness was an expression of our ever-changing purposes: that there is a precise point at which a heap becomes a nonheap, but it “shifts around” as our objectives do. In fact, because the act of considering two comparable heaps accentuates their similarity, “the boundary can never be where we are looking.” No wonder we think it doesn’t exist.
Imagine that a gym teacher has hastily divided a large class of students into two groups according to height. If you enter the gym, you will have no trouble declaring one group the tall students and the other the short ones. But had you been presented with the undivided class and asked to say where the tallness boundary was, you would have despaired of an answer. Tallness is not just a matter of height, Fara concluded. As with all such properties, what gets to be tall is also shaped by our interests …


"Many psychoanalysts think that lovesickness is a form of regression, that in longing for intense closeness, we are like infants craving our mother's embrace. This is why we are most at risk when we are struggling with loss or despair, or when we are lonely and isolated... 'People who are lovesick put off testing their fantasies against reality.' But given the anguish that lovesickness can cause - the loss of mental freedom, the dissatisfaction with one's self, and the awful ache - why do some of us put off facing reality for so long?
Often it's because facing reality means accepting loneliness. And while loneliness can be useful - motivating us to meet someone new, for example - a fear of loneliness can work like a trap, ensnaring us in heartsick feelings for a very long time."
Stephen Grosz, The Examined Life

Isn't this a little bit like fun?


"I am persuaded that
if truth is a number
[...] it never comes out even
ends in a fraction
cannot be rounded off."

John Stone,Even Though


"A good relationship is a village in which people share parts of themselves with various people and that doesn't mean sexual parts, it just means that there are numerous people that reflect back on you, your sense of self-worth, your value, how much you mean to them in their life, that you don't just exist for one person, and just not one person that is meant to make you feel like you matter; there is a community that makes you feel that you matter.... give up the model that one person will be there for everything."
Esther Perel, talking about relationships and infidelity on Dear Sugar Radio


Every period of self-growth in my life has been accompanied by acquisition of a new (set of) vocabulary of self-identification... words to describe who I am, signposts to navigate the psychological landscape. Without the right qualifiers, important elements of identity remain a mysterious vague feeling, a nagging discomfort without validation, a muted voice. There is no liberation without the right words.


'... a familiar, but also ridiculous, paradigm of marriage, one in which we collude in the fiction that no one of the opposite sex ever draws our interest.'
Susan Dominus, writes for NYT Magazine on open marriages

the most intoxicating other

“so often the most intoxicating other that people discover in the affair is not a new partner; it’s a new self.” [Esther Perel]

quoted by Susan Dominus in NYT Magazine

Dating is wasted on the young and the single

"Dating... is wasted on the young and the single. A young person in his 20s, unformed, skittish, goes out into the world and tries to fall in love, a project complicated by the bulky defenses that allow him to undertake so risky a venture in the first place. Now imagine that same person, many years into a stable marriage, anchored. He is no longer a stranger to himself; he is more likely to have forgiveness for human frailty. He can — theoretically — retreat to the safe harbor of his marriage at any time. What would it be like to be entranced by someone new, without needing, simultaneously to lay claim?"
Susan Dominus, writing for NYT Magazine on open marriages

An Exploration of Non-Monogamy

NYT magazine's cover story this week is a very fascinating long-read on open marriages and non-monogamous couples. Monogamy has such a moral dominance in our lives that an earnest exploration of non-monogamy, such as this article, makes a lot of people uncomfortable. 
Below are some excerpts, which do not serve as a summary, but they struck me for various reasons, and which I'd like to preserve. I'll post some excerpts and quotes in independent posts as well.
* "Would you rather be asleep and have things fall apart? Or rather be alive and have things fall apart?"
* Most monogamous couples labor to avoid [jealousy] at all costs; but for the philosophically polyamorous, jealousy presents an opportunity to examine the insecurities that opening a relationships lays bare.
* It took decades for sex researchers to consider the possibility that women’s fabled low libido might be a symptom of monogamy.
* ... the deluded idea that your partner is knowable and entirely safe…


"I cordially invite you to join me in contemplation of the infinite."
The Casual Vacancy, Episode #1.1

free affections and wide interests

"The happy man is the man who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures his happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they, in turn, make him an object of interest and affection to many others."
Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness


One of the reasons why I like poetry, songs and literary fragments is that I can co-opt them; personalize them with my interpretations... I can take the beauty in their words and make it my own.

So tell me how long, love, before you go

Yesterday I watched a documentary The Bridge, an stirring account of people committing suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge over the course of a year. It was striking to see the ambivalence in family and friends as they struggled to make sense of an act that is paradoxically so comprehensible and incomprehensible at the same time. Some friends and family knew in their gut that something like this would happen but felt helpless to stop it.  As I was listening to the song Agape (Bear's Den) this morning, I suddenly realized -- influenced by the documentary, no doubt -- that it could very well be about a significant other who is afraid that the beloved will die by suicide at some point. For I'm so scared of losing you
And I don't know what I can do about it
About it
So tell me how long, love, before you go
And leave me here on my own
I know that I don't wanna know
Who I am without you


'Odin gave Gjallerhorn to Heimdall, watchman of the gods. On the day the Gjallernhorn is blown, it will wake the gods, no matter where they are, no matter how deeply they sleep. Heimdall will blow the Gjallerhorn only once, at the end of all things, at Ragnarok.'
Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology


"You just have to close your eyes and let the world die."

12 Monkeys, Episode 2.02

a touch of frost

'    Is it a touch of frost lies in the air?
Why are we haunted with a sense of loss?
We do not wish the pain back, or the heat;
And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.'

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Friendship After Love

strangers and friends

"She is a lifetime of strangers and friends"

Ben Abraham, She


"To allow the sunlight far into your depths, to have depths no one will ever visit."
Robert Wrigley, Being a Lake

10 Questions - A Snapshot of My Philosophical Leanings

About ten years ago, I posted a list of 10 questions on this blog, which I declared 'are of great interest to me, and which occupy a significant part of my thinking'. A list of questions that preoccupy me now would have significant differences, nonetheless, it's interesting for me to look at this old list, and think over how I approach these complex issues. I'll take a brief shot at each, outlining the direction in which I lean, deferring elaborations and arguments to the future.
1. What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of human existence?
There is a psychological question of what constitutes a subjectively meaningful life, and what are the factors that lead to it, and there is a philosophical question of whether there is an objective meaning or purpose to individual human existence. I think that any attempts along the lines of 'There is no objective meaning to our lives, but we create/decide the meaning of our lives for ourselves' to ground meaning …

Forgotten Blogs

Aati: "I'm actually glad to see you take this [blog] up again, because it felt like such a waste for it to be gone. A small defeat, the sort that goes unnoticed, like weary communists opening up businesses: cold hard reality encroaching upon our hopes and dreams. Forgotten blogs are what disappointment might look like. So I am glad. Gives me hope the dream still lives, waiting."

Kafka on the Shore

More fragments from Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore:
* "As long as there's such a thing as time, everybody's damaged in the end, changed into something else."
* [A prostitute quotes Bergson after giving a blowjob.] "... man that was good." "How good?" "Like there's no past or future anymore." "The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory."
* "... I have something I need to confess, too." ... "We're exchanging secrets, I see." "Mine isn't a secret. Just a theory."
* I have to understand it, accept it, before it's too late. But I still can't make out that delicate writing left on the shore of my consciousness. There's not enough time between one wave and the next.
* "A bit of shape and form has disappeared from the world, increasing the amount of nothingness."

Twitter, the chatter, and the they-self

There is something about Twitter that brings out feelings of existential angst in me in a manner and degree that no other social media platform does. I am painfully reminded of what Heidegger calls das Gerede, the endless chatter; it is a surrender to das Man, ‘the they-self'/'the they'; a socialized, superficial, inauthentic mode of being; the clamor of the multitudes. (Heidegger says that the chatter serves to distract and insulate us from the confrontation with das Nichts, the Nothing.)
I am embarrassingly aware that a lot of my offline and online social life would be considered das Gerede in pure Heideggerian terms. I am not trying to be broadly dismissive of twitter or social media in general. I know that many people, including myself, have found some measure of authenticity through these platforms, which was otherwise lacking in daily lives. There is also nothing inherent to Twitter than makes it more inauthentic than, say, Facebook or Instagram. Perhaps it has to d…

Art, Memory and Experience

MoMA 41517
This is a collage made from details of various paintings and photographs that I came across during my visit to Museum of Modern Art today. I did not note down the names of these artworks and their respective artists, and while contextual information regarding these works is vanishing fast from my mind, the images remain vivid in my memories; the collage intends to capture this phenomenon. The experience of art that lingers in my mind is a de-contextualized experience of art; the details evoke associations, feelings and interpretations in me that likely have no proximity to the intentions of the artists. Disparate forms, separated in origin by decades and centuries, are enmeshed in my mind in a unique juxtaposition, creating a new holistic experience. Intimacy, politics, desire, symbolism, abstraction, all thrown in a blender... this is fodder for the unconscious, this is the stuff of dreams.


As I approach the beginning of the third decade of my life, I cannot help but acknowledge this yearning in me for 'a wilderness untamed by moralism, careerism and the strictures of conformism'. Not that I was ever a fan of the scripted life, but it feels like a tyrannous presence more than ever, and I am increasingly impatient of the 'the simple moral judgments of the uninitiated': "Cracks in the foundations of our life narratives can have the surprising effect of clearing space for unforeseeable developments. Like the seeds that sprout in toxic soil, or push up through slabs of oppressive concrete, re-emergence and reinvention become possible. Instead of playing out familiar plotlines, which would otherwise escort us all the way to the tomb, we can take over the screenplays of our lives, and we can begin to spin the most quixotic yarns, set in a wilderness untamed by moralism, careerism and the strictures of conformism. Although these types of crisis are typical…