My (Re)Introduction to the World
By Nicholas T. Dahlheim
September 22, 2010
I choose to put some of my intellectual work up here on Facebook for others to see. I will no longer post in the “News Feed” portion of Facebook. That particular forum offers little that can help me convey my carefully developed thinking about the state of the world, my life, and how the world and my life suggest the role which I am meant to play here on my short journey here on planet Earth. Earlier, shorter postings I had posted in the More extensive postings will appear on my blog, The Planetary Observer (https://planetaryobserver.wordpress.com/). The blog has only featured a couple of test posts I had composed at the end of July—but little of sustained and serious substance. I have struggled to sustain and marshal my creative resources and faculties. Truth is, I am rather burnt out from a long time at school. This burn-out comes as I have succumbed to the mounting pressure I have placed upon myself as I have struggled to fit my formal education, my extensive private reading, and my life experience, my job/career goals, and my spiritual life into a coherent whole. I have always maintained my own personal journal, but starting this spring and continuing into the summer I have been unable to see words coming out and spilling onto the page or onto the computer screen. I have retreated quite a bit into something of a cone of solitude as I try to shut out the incessant noise of (post)modern society. I’ll admit, I have had my outbursts of furious Facebooking as well as my daily dose of Cenk Uygur on the Young Turks. But overall, I have largely abandoned my attachment to a lot of email and cellular phone and other electronic media communication (Twitter, I-Phones, Kindles, handheld cameras and video recorders, etc.) because I don’t agree with the manner in which they manifest themselves. Still, I choose to use Facebook and will be using my blog at The Planetary Observer at least 2-3 times per week to post essays about topics I care about. The reason: I’m finally coming out of the dense fog as the fresh breeze and the early morning sun help clear away that which is impeding my vision. In addition, my main role here on Earth is to spend time thinking clearly about what composes our world and how best I can use my intellect and skills to construct a new source of meaning and inspiration for action. There are two types of people in the world—1st) the contemplative/thinking type who requires solitude and a small measure of leisure within which to develop the mind and enrich the perspective and 2nd) the active/doer type who is socially aggressive and easily navigates the social game and/or the corridors of power and influence to achieve goals. Both types intimately need each other in order for culture and society to function well and meet the deeper needs of the human person. However, the 1st type, my type to a ‘T’, is not the type of person most easily valued in this constantly active, workaholic, addictive, image-based, digitized society of ours.
I firmly believe that the reason for this being the case firmly rests with the following phenomena: the sheer proliferation of images in the broad popular culture, that many of these images exist in a state of near-constant motion, the undue emphasis placed on image and superficial presentation at the expense of depth and sustained attention, and the decline of the media form of the printed word in popular culture. Yet the major reasons my personality type receives significantly less esteem and affirmation within this culture revolves not so much around the spatial and even the tactile components of the transformation of media, but rather from the fact that the narrowing of time and the increasing speed of (post)modern daily life conspire against the kind of clear, sustained contemplation, investigation, and introspection which fertilizes penetrating insight and mental clarity.
The subtleties and complexities of Virilio’s thought speak directly to some of the reasons that my personality type—the thinking/contemplative type—operates at such a tremendous disadvantage in the current culture. French philosopher and cultural theorist Paul Virilio has spent his entire scholastic career developing a critique of the logistics of perception as they interact dialectically with the rapid transformations in technology. Virilio specifically focuses on the technologies of media/communication as well as those of the weapons systems employed to wage war. Virilio, through his study of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, has demonstrated the deep interconnection between the evolution of media technology and the changing uses of weapons technology throughout the 20th century. To summarize the most crucial components of Virilio’s theory with respect to the logistics of perception and media technology, the nature of modern war and modern media technology plunges the observer into what Virilio identifies as the dromosphere. The system of modern media technology and the logistics of perception that are inextricably bound up with it have hurled contemporary society reflect an underlying “logic of acceleration” at work.
It is this tyranny of the “logic of acceleration” from which I run. I long for the simple life in a community of persons committed to the study of ideas and the intense observation of the quotidian minutiae which really form the building blocks of the edifice of reality. I try, and largely fail, to conform to the contemporary corporate culture that idealizes sleek young professionals and their conformism to the totems of the business culture. Try as I may, I am not that man. That man is of the second type, to which I referred earlier. This man is comfortable navigating the political landscape of this image-obsessed culture and finds escape the nonstop work culture and competitiveness of the business culture. I, on the other hand, am the college teacher without a classroom, the man of letters separated from a literate community, the author without a muse, the loner longing for community, the lover without a soulmate, the connoisseur of music without a listening audience with which to share it, the person with a great family who has not been able to access its intimacy, the seeker of sanity in an ultimately insane world. My contrarian instincts are part of my charm, my mystery, my madness. But those instincts don’t function well in a culture that overly prizes conformity to the rapid acceleration of the already fast-paced (post)modern lifestyle. That is not to say that I can occasionally have some great value in certain settings. However, I am at my best when I slide quietly into invisibility and let my thinking, and soon mostly my writing, become the voice I need. It is from this position that I will make my most real and substantial contribution.