Some Announcements

So, my plan to get back on a regular blogging schedule has taken an arrow to the knee, as my trusty laptop wasn’t so enthused about the idea/it just gave up after all the time I spent with it during finals. So, it’s going to be a little while before I’m writing properly again, but in the meantime, here are two things that have happened involving me that are cool!

First of all, I was asked to take part in the Atheist Voices YouTube series. I talked about what it was like forming DAFT, what the group stands for, and a whole lot more! Two of the videos are already up, and you can see them below.

Secondly, I’ve been asked to join More than Men, and I have accepted! As soon as my computer is back in working order, look for an intro post and a whole stream of radical progressive thoughts happening over there.

Till then!


Thoughts, Four Years Later

On Sunday, June 16th, I graduated from DePaul University, with bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and History of Art & Architecture.

It’s really, really intense to think about everything that’s happened in the past four years.

I spent my first year at the university not liking it very much. I was happy to finally be gone from Cincinnati, where I spent my middle and high school years, and finally getting the fresh start I had wanted for as long as I was there. That feeling wasn’t so much borne of animus against the people I knew in high school, though that was an aspect, but rather being able to escape the person I was then. I had not been well-liked, to say the least. I bet I’m still not held in high esteem by many of those folks, and I wouldn’t argue against them in terms of their assessments of my character. I was a pretty miserable person to be around, for a whole host of reasons, many of them stemming from my recovery from several rounds of intensive medical treatment regarding the brain tumor I had, but I don’t want that to be an excuse. I could and should have been a better friend, and a better student. Coming to Chicago meant that I could have that chance.

I like to think that I’ve taken that chance. Certainly, from my point of view, the past four years have been the absolute best years of my entire life. I have met the most amazing people, seen the most fabulous things, had experiences that are frankly so absurd that I never would have thought of them ever occurring beforehand, but now are time capsules to look back on and laugh at. I’ve had a few crushes, and now I can genuinely say that I am in love with a person whose wonderfulness I am staggered by each and every day.

I’ve learned. Shit, have I learned. I realize now that I came to Chicago as the very definition of someone who didn’t know a goddamn thing. But, through classes with utterly wonderful professors, and through the community of friends who welcomed me and shared with me their experiences and wisdom, I think I’m a far more compassionate, informed, active person.

However, much as I hope these things about myself are true, I don’t ultimately get to decide whether they are or not. I’m of the belief that whether or not I’ve grown as a person, whether I am worthy of the great friendship and care that I have been offered in this city and others, are to be judged by those that have made me who I am. To declare myself fleet and fancy-free, an activist, writer, friend, etc. worth listening would be the height of conceit.

This is a lesson I’ve learned through my friends, and in the pages of philosophical and historical texts, namely those of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hannah Arendt, and Audre Lorde; we are constituted as people by our histories, by choices we have made or those that have been made for us, by those who we have interacted and chosen to learn from or otherwise. Had any small thing been changed in any part of our lives, we would be different. We are, in Merleau-Ponty’s words, condemned to sense; condemned, always, to exist as beings in the world.

This is, I think, the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in my life. We can’t escape our history, but we can work to be better people on account of it. We do that by being willing to listen, being willing to question not just ourselves, but the world itself, especially the information given to us from those who social norms would have us believe are our betters. This kind of engagement takes all kinds of forms, but it is essential to our very humanity.

I believe I have been made a better person by Kate, and by Danielle, and Miri, and Steve, and Tyler, and Amanda, and Simone, and Professor Chanter, and Lyz Liddell, and Debbie Goddard, and countless numbers of people who I simply cannot name here for lack of space. Being able to meet all of these people, and to be changed by them, is the great gift that DePaul University offered me, and so, despite what the administration might do with regard to basketball arenas and gentrification and generally disregarding every word that Vincent de Paul ever said or wrote, I will be forever grateful to the institution. Had I not gone to DePaul, everything would have been different, and I doubt I would have been as happy as I am in this moment.

In closing, thank you to everyone who’s been there. Thank you to everyone who reads this. I don’t know what I’m doing now, two degrees later, but I have no doubt it’ll be a fun ride.

I’m Going to SkepTech!

In a continuing effort to get my brain back on track, I’ve just returned from an awesome week or so away, where I saw a ton of friends old and new, had some truly fascinating and invigorating conversations, and drank a bit of beer. By a bit, I mean a lot.

I also was completely beguiled by Boston. I just don’t understand how it operates. It’s got no reason to how it is laid out. And all the trains are from the 1940s. I was half expecting to be asked whether I wanted to buy bonds for the war effort. But I had fun, nonetheless.

I’m back in Chicago now for a whole three days before I take off this weekend for what promises to be a truly awesome conference up in Minneapolis called SkepTech. Here are a few things about it, from the organizers:

1) What is SkepTech?

SkepTech is a mix of two words “Skepticism” (A disposition of systematic doubt) and “Technology” (The practical application of knowledge). In other words, our conference is all about the relationship between critical thinking and innovation.

2) What makes this conference important?

This conference is led by two campus skeptical groups – Campus Atheists Skeptics and Humanists at the University of Minnesota (CASH), and the Secular Student Alliance Afilliate at St. Cloud State University (SSA@SCSU). As skeptics, we see systematic doubt as an essential tool in improving our world.

There are plenty of conferences out there that demonstrate new technology. There are plenty of conferences out there that go after superstition and dogma. Our conference is different in that our desire is focused. Above all else we want to promote fact checking as an essential tool for scientific, technological, and humanitarian progress.

3) What are the goals for this conference?

To give our community a unique look at the role of critical thinking in the sciences
To explore new ways of using technology to overcome social problems
To teach people how to use the internet to challenge ideas effectively
To have ridiculous amounts of fun.

In addition to featuring lots of fabulous speakers like Greta Christina, Brianne Bilyeu, JT Eberhard, Stephanie Zvan, and Jesse Galef, I’ll be on a panel on Sunday with JT, Brianne, and Miri Mogilevsky on Internet vs. Real World Activism. Its prompt is this:

The panel will focus on a problem every activist has—how do we delegate time? Is it better to blog and be active online, or to spend more time volunteering in-person? How are the two approaches different or similar? Which is ultimately more effective? The point of this panel is to recognize the pros/cons of cyberspace and meatspace activism, and to figure out how we balance the two (if balancing them is even the correct response to begin with).

If you know me or have been reading this blog, you know this is a thing that I have Lots Of Feelings about. So, it should be a very interesting discussion.

I hope to see you there, and look out for  a return to normal-ish service here by next week.

What’s Going On With Me

Hello all.

I haven’t been posting a lot recently, and that’s been mostly down to my completely packed class/work/organizing schedule, which thankfully will be ending in two weeks. The problem hasn’t so much been workload, which is honestly pretty light compared to other quarters I’ve had, but it’s been work that has been so basic that it completely turns me off. I know it sounds pretentious and all that, but when I’m not doing work that interests me, my brain can kind of turn off with it. So, doing all this make-work stresses me out, and I spend so much time doing it (because a lot of it is math, and math makes me panic) that I end up being too stressed to blog. It’s a vicious cycle.

Furthermore, when I’m too stressed to blog, I get stressed by the fact that I’m not blogging. I can’t think of what to write about, or I have an idea but worry that my idea is too similar to other people’s writing. Basically, my brain is very good at finding ways to suck.

It’s apathy of a sort, in that I think in the fear of failing, or being repetitive, or simply piling on to this discussion or another rather than adding to it substantively, my brain convinces itself that it’d just rather do nothing at all, and we should really watch that episode of Eureka or play FIFA for a while rather than try to write. That’ll de-stress you, I think, you can write after you just turn off your brain for a while. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it’s the latter, it makes me feel even worse. And the cycle begins again.

The moral of the story is, while some of my pieces have gotten good play out in the interwebs, and the fact that last Friday I hosted a panel of some of my greatest intellectual heroes, a few of whom told me they found what I write to be very important, which was overwhelming to say the least, I’m still figuring out how the hell this whole blogging game works right now. And I don’t know if I’m going to figure it out any time soon, or if I ever will. But I do like doing it, a lot, and I like talking to you readers when you share my stuff or make comments on it. So, I’m hoping that after next week, when I’ll get to bid Chicago adieu for a week to go recharge my batteries in New York and Boston with friends old and new, I’ll be back on my game.

In the meantime, I’ll be locked up in my apartment, scribbling away about Aristotle and Agamben and Kristeva. C’est la vie.

I’m Working, But Not Going Anywhere

Hi all. Quick update on the personal front.

I just started working at a large downtown law firm on a three-month temp contract, doing database management and all that kind of fun stuff, so the vast swathe of free time I formerly had is pretty much gone now. So, I’ll probably be posting less frequently, or I may just, you know, write stuff while at work. We’ll see how snoopy HR is, but right now, the most entertaining part of this job is listening to The Clash, Doomtree, and other really anti-establishment music while all these lawyers walk around my desk. It’s the small pleasures in life, right? I mean, I already hate myself enough taking a job like this, it being the first where I don’t really have to think, or use my hands, or do anything marginally interesting, but money is a thing I need. Sigh.

In any case, it won’t last forever. I’m planning on kicking out the jams on a few posts involving a lot of critical race and resistance theory I’ve been working with for the past few months at DePaul, the first of which should be appearing tomorrow, and I also have things to write about James Croft’s talk at Skepticon and his philosophy in general, but I’m waiting for that video to go up on YouTube before I wade in.

Besides that, there’s lots and lots of ideas. I’ve got about a dozen drafts of varying completeness saved back here. I’ve got all the motivation to write, just not the time I need.