I am re-evaluating my habits in quite a few ways right now; two instances of this impact my blog.
First, I have cut back on the amount of Fallout 4 I was playing as part of a broader attempt to better regulate my schedule. Since what I have played has consistently revealed more things to write about, I want to follow the storylines even further before I attempt the next entry in the post-apocalypse series. Because I will not be playing nearly as much anymore, however, I cannot say when I will feel ready to write it. I could restructure the series, tackling other media next, but I had had a specific trajectory in mind which relied very much on Fallout 4’s themes of re-creating the settlement* of the United States. It might take a while for me to think of a new way into the topic.
In the meantime, I will try harder to write for this space; perhaps I will feel freer to do so now that I have excused myself from addressing impending post-apocalypses.
Second, I do not like my commenting policy made at the beginning of the year. Over the course of January and half of February, I have felt that limiting myself to three comments (excepting, as always, in my own comment spaces) makes me an inhospitable interlocutor. By accident I have limited myself to writing screeds or telling jokes; I give myself little or no room to respond to people who want to engage with what I have contributed. When I wrote my final comment for January, for example, I had to apologize that I could not respond to any responses; I suggested other ways to get in touch with me if readers desired conversation and also said I could always return in February if they were willing to wait, but I still felt like I was posting a bill on a street post more than participating in a conversation.
I will spend the next month considering the specific details of my new plan, but I anticipate it will go something like this: I can make two unsolicited comments over the course of a month, and may reply to responses to that comment no more than three times. At most, this would be a total of eight comments, but only if other commenters reply to me often; if no one replies to my comments, I could write a maximum of two comments. It will be harder to convey this in the comments themselves, but I think it would be more conducive to conversation without allowing the downward spirals that prompted my decision. I will post my new rules here when they are finalized.
*I am using settlement rather than colonization pointedly here, because it is settlement and not colonization that Fallout 4 tries to re-create.
Every third Saturday of the month I intend to re-post something I wrote for one of my assorted old blogs or tumblogs. This time I look at “Book-Eaters and Titanomachy” from The Thinking Grounds, which concerns some metaphors for reading and learning I was exploring at that time.
Image source: Harris County Public Library at flic.kr/p/fksxun
Book-Eaters and Titanomachy
TW: a brief discussion of cannibalism
Back in November, I posted the following to Facebook:
Does anyone else find themselves, at times, thinking, “I ate that book,” rather than, “I read that book”?
Eating a book, for me, is different from reading it. If you read a book, you look at the words, understand them, and recognize the whole book as an object. If you eat a book, you do all of that, but then you also internalize it, assembling its ideas and perspectives into yourself. Moreover, you bring those perspectives into yourself as one perspective among many, and you do not take it as is; you fix it, alter it, improve it, nuance it, cut out the stuff that doesn’t work, fit it into your framework. It may challenge you, but after you’ve responded to its challenge, you then challenge it. You internalize it, but you also tame it. If you merely internalize it, and you let it take you over, you did not eat the book, but rather the book ate you.
(Today, I was thinking of a book, and then imagined telling someone, “I ate that book,” and it was weird but also made sense to me.)
On the first Saturday of each month for at least the next little while I intend to share here one of the Weekly Wonders from that previous project. This time I’m sharing the pizza effect, which concerns the creation of “authentic” cultural artifacts abroad.
This week’s idea is the pizza effect.
Image source: Jeffreyw at flic.kr/p/f57dsm. Jeffryw has a large number of high-quality creative commons photographs of pizza, in case that’s a resource you’ll need some day.
The pizza effect refers to a phenomenon in which an element of one culture is transformed or embraced in another culture and is then imported back into the culture of origin in this new way. You could also think of this as the way in which a culture or community’s self-understanding is influenced by outside sources. A term from religious studies and sociology, the pizza effect gets its name from the idea (possibly false) that pizza was mostly developed by immigrants from Italy in the United States and exported from there to Italy at a later date, where it was interpreted (and became) a specialty in Italian cuisine. Hindu monk and anthropology professor Agehananda Bharati coined the term in the 1970s to address issues of Indian culture: for instance, the popularity of yoga and several gurus which developed in the West led to their adoption in India, and the Bhagavad Gita which, while always important to Hinduism, became even more exalted when Western anthropologists and orientalists interpreted the Gita as Hinduism’s Bible.
Source: Kaysha at flic.kr/p/sK8Pe3
Watching Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller 2015), which I very much enjoyed, I was struck by how existentialist the film was; indeed, it made me realize that all post-apocalyptic fiction has an existentialist seed. But then, there is also something post-apocalyptic about existentialism. God is dead, spake Friedrich Nietzsche in 1882. God remains dead. And we have killed him. If that doesn’t announce an apocalypse, I don’t know what does.
When Nietzsche declared God dead, he was not making a metaphysical claim but rather a moral and psychological claim: at one point, humanity relied on the authority of God to guarantee moral questions. In order to decide what to do, what kind of decision to make, they appealed to God; moreover, this appeal was beyond question. But as Nietzsche pointed out, by the end of the seventeenth century God no longer had ultimate moral authority. People might well still believe in God and derive their morality from that belief, but it was no longer the case that any moral code, any moral prescript, was unquestionable. God as a figure for absolute norms was dead. This was not a physical apocalypse but it was, at least, a social and ethical one. And as with so many apocalypses, some of us survived it (though, as Dallas Hunt might point out, the question is not so much “did we survive?” but “who is the ‘we’ that survived?”).