September 2nd, 2005


Way of Shinsei

I finished Way of Shinsei tonight. It makes me want to be contemplative, but there is nothing to say. A koan, perhaps?

Ten rustling pages
And the book ends before me.
No wisdom, no thought.

Why am I updating?

Why am I updating for the third time today? School's started, I shouldn't be doing this. I shouldn't feel compelled to do this. I'm still doing this.

I just finished the first two proofs I've done since ninth grade. One was the Pythagorean theorem. I based it off a website (properly cited on the proof). It is beautiful and elegant. The other, a proof that triangles have one-hundred eighty degrees, came from my own brain and reasoning. It is ugly and forceful and doesn't quite work except for 45-45-90 triangles, but it's done and it's my own. I'd honestly rather get a D for my own proof than an A for interpretting someone else's. Ranjan can teach me someone else's in class tomorrow, tonight I understand my own reasoning. Well I'm taking this course to push myself. Outside the comfort zone, eh?

Today was randomly tie day. Just for me. I like dressing nice and despite the fact I was wearing variations on all three primary colors (dark navy blue slacks, soft gold/tan oxford shirt, marroon tie; picture soon), I think this outfit works. I felt confident today, attractive, proud. The briefcase helped.

There were a lot of Jew jokes tonight. I like being identified as The Jew. Except I'm not anymore. Gelf is. I'm just a Jew. When Gelf came in that scared me because I'd always been the token Jew and it was a part of my identity. We carry so many trappings of self that any reminder of them, even mockery, is comforting. I may not chase after pennies but I know enough Maimonides to joke about chasing after pennies. That makes sense in my mind.

What identifies me? Religion, obviously. The way I dress, now more than ever. My studies, certainly. When we were planning Nexus and it was suggested that I write the advertisement it filled me with pride because I was finally being identified as a writer. Dancing? I'd like it to be an identifier, though I'm not there yet. It's doubtful that I will be before graduation.

Then there are the identifiers I used to have that are now gone. I used to be the crazy game guy. Now that's Andy, and possibly Gordon. I used to be the big recruiter and organizer; few people even know I was out-of-house rep, now. Going back even further, I used to be the big reader. I've done barely any reading for pleasure since I came to school. I used to be an athlete, a great cyclist and swimmer.

When we did the seven questions meme over the summer and people said they liked my writing it thrilled me, not simply for the compliment about my writing but for the identity confirmation. It's the same thrill I get when people say they like the way I'm dressed or they think my hair looks pretty. It's an affirmation of self. "This is who I want to be, this is who I want you to see." "That is who you are."

Tomorrow there will be swing dancing. It is exciting. I shall put on a white shirt, a marroon tie, a black pinstripe suit (just the pants and vest, no jacket), and a black fedora with a feather. The hat shall be forward at an angle better suited to someone in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

There'll be an orchestra
Bingo! Bango!
Playing for us to dance a tango.
And everyone will see us show
off your new steps and my new clothes.

That may not be an exact quote, but it's close. I first read that poem in Lyla, Pirsig's much-underrated sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It refers to 1920's attitudes of style as a social virtue that preceeded modern intellect. According to Pirsig we should identify by intellect, by thought, rather than by social projections, and the poem mocks said projections. Actually, according to Pirsig we should identify by Quality, by pre-intellectual realization, by arete, or as I have termed it for easier understanding, by the mystic.

Why must one negate the rest?