Free Association – Day 5

I think it’s day five. I’ve lost count.

So, it’s late, but I wasn’t procrastinating today. I was trying to accomplish other things. As I mentioned at the start of my free association exercise that the point of the exercise is to become more fluid in my writing. To be able to get my ideas out more quickly. If you’re any of the people who talks to me on the phone or communicates with me via email, you know that I’m always referring to that post I’m going to write on some subject or another which I somehow never get to. Unfortunately, rigor and speed are often at odds. Still, I’d like to increase the speed.

Okay, now I’m blanking.

I’m not really blanking. I have three threads going in my head at once. One is about the contemporary fondness for physical fitness among the upper middle class. The second is a photograph I recently took of myself and the fact that I keep most photos of myself offline. The third was what I was writing about writing itself.

I mentioned at the start of this exercise that I had taken a writing course and writing your thoughts as the came into your head was a technique that was highly recommended for getting around writers block. However, what this current exercise doesn’t take into account is that the next stage was rereading and revising things. It wasn’t supposed to stay in that raw state. This is one of the conundrums of blogging. Blogging by its nature is speedy. It is a different literary beast from a well-developed article. I allow much more of what I consider “slippage” in a blog post than I ever would have allowed in an article I might have submitted for publication or written for class. In those cases, often several times more time is spent on the revising than on the rough draft. Trying to eliminate every spelling error and every grammatical error is seen as an attainable goal, if not in every article, then at least in the vast majority. When I first started blogging, I held myself to a similar standard, but I soon realized that that missed the point. Spending that much time revising and correcting was not a possibility if one wanted to publish with the sort of speed blogging implied.

So, how to improve quality in blogging?

I’m such a nasty, judgemental bitch. Really. I think I’m so superior to everyone. Sometimes, I annoy my own self.

Getting back to the “contemporary fondness for physical fitness” that I mentioned before, I saw a post about “sporn” selfies, pictures men take of themselves working out at the gym. Some academic wrote a paper about it. Now, I should qualify what I am about to say with the fact that I didn’t read the paper itself, I only read the coverage of it on a website. However, the parts they quoted made the academic who wrote the paper sound like someone who is entirely ignorant of any history. I looked him up and he apparently has a Ph.D. in “media studies.” The part that was quoted sounded so stupid, then I felt snotty, superior and like and asshole. There’s a side of me that wants to rip the guy’s ideas apart, but then there’s a side of me that pulls away from doing that because I don’t want to be mean.

Anyway, the reason that the sporn selfie thing interested me at all was because I had recently mentioned Christopher Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites. Now, he draws some parallels between the behavior of the elites in the current day (although he was writing in the mid nineties, the social trends he noticed at that time have only increased since then) and the behavior Jose Ortega y Gasset noticed among the people he called “mass men.” (It is probably worth pointing out that Ortega believes that the “mass man” can appear in any strata of society.)

(An aside: My high school American History I teacher used to make us, when taking notes about an event, write down what events led up to it and what events resulted from it. It is always tempting, indeed, it may be necessary, to break history into eras and chunks. Yet, in the end, it is one stream. Where does the era described by Ortega end and our own begin? Indeed, ours is in fact, an outgrowth of the previous ones.)

One of the commonalities Lasch notices between the mass man of the 1920s and the elites of the 1990s is the fondness for physical fitness. Lasch summarizing Ortega’s description of the mass man writes:

His attitude toward the body was severely practical: He made a cult of physical fitness and submitted to hygienic regimens that promised to keep it in good repair and to extend its longevity.

This appears in a list of several other qualities, including no use for obligation, no feeling for history, incapable of submitting to direction, lacking an understanding of “the fragility of civilization or the tragic character of history,” a lack of romance or interest in erotic love. In conclusion, Lasch writes:

It was, above all, however, the “deadly hatred of all that is not itself” that characterized the mass mind, as Ortega described it. In capable of wonder or respect, the mass man was the “spoiled child of human history.”

Lasch then continues:

All these habits of mind, I submit, are now more characteristic of the upper levels of society than of the lower or middle levels.

Further down:

They [the working class] understand, as their betters do not, that there are inherent limits on human control over the course of social development, over nature and the body, over the tragic elements in human life and history. While young professionals subject themselves to an arduous schedule of physical exercise and dietary controls designed to keep death at bay – to maintain themselves in a state of permanent youthfulness, eternally attractive and remarriageable – ordinary people, on the other hand, accept the body’s decay as something against which it is more or less useless to struggle.

For now, the gentle side of me will win out. I will only recommend that Jamie Hakim read Ortega y Gasset, as well as Christopher Lasch, and look for other historical treatments of his theme.

Before I go, I’d like to throw out a quote from an article in The New Statesman about Pierre Bayle, someone with whom I trust all my freethinking friends are familiar.

When a clergyman questioned him about his religious views, he supposedly replied that he was a good Protestant, “in the full sense of the term”, because “I protest against everything that is said, and everything that is done”.

  1. Interesting post.
    I have noticed there are so many working people registering in gyms, cycling, jogging in the morning, dieting, especially dieting. It’s almost a craze.
    I was almost there too. Then I realized we all die in the future. This days I cycle when I have time and enjoy life.

    • fojap said:

      You put me in mind of this song. I hope I haven’t posted it recently.

      • Sadly I can’t find the video 😦

    • fojap said:

      By the way, I think you’d be interested in the Bayle article I linked to.

      • You were right I would love it. I couldn’t read it on my comp because I have AdBlock on. He sounds to me just like Spinoza

      • fojap said:

        Odd – I have AdBlock on, too, and I was able to read it.

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