Monday, December 20, 2010

Notes On The Title Of This Blog

Weird backgammon board from gammonline.
 "So," I'm often asked, "'The Kramer Is Now?' What is up with that?  Is that, like, Kramer from Seinfeld?"

1.  No, it's not Kramer from Seinfeld, it's a Kramer Cube, as discussed in the most under-appreciated novel ever written:  Amazons: An Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League.  The title is my homage to Cleo, the most under-appreciated heroine in noveldom.  I wrote about Her Awesomeness Cleo in the first post on this blog.

2.  The Kramer Cube is a device to help cure Jumping Frenchman's Disease.  Our Heroine, Cleo, has a Cute Guy in her life, named Shaver.   Shaver suffers from JFD, and he spends much of the novel sleeping in the Cube.  This is convenient for Cleo, who then gets to run around playing hockey and having adventures.  Who doesn't want a Cute Guy in a Kramer Cube in their life?  Nobody.

3. There's a sidebar quote from the book on the blog front page that involves a conversation between Cleo and a nosy reporter.  The reporter has come from some lifestyle magazine to do a photo-shoot-and-interview.  The reporter is, of course, excited by the whole Kramer-Cube-With-Shaver-In-It.  In the way of lifestyle magazine reporters, she wants details.  "What's next for you two?" she asks.  And Cleo says, "I don't know. I haven't thought beyond the Kramer. The Kramer is now."

4.  And it's that sentiment, of not thinking beyond the Kramer, that's the important one.  I'm a philosopher -- that is to say, I teach philosophy at a university and I research and publish in philosophy as an academic discipline.  Philosophy is all about reason, reflection, and thinking about things.  To tell you the truth, it gets to be a bit much.  I mean, all that thinking can get a person down.  I wrote about this before, on my old blog, in the context of the suicide of David Foster Wallace.

As usual, Hume really said it best, back in  1748:
"Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? ... I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.

Most fortunately it happens, that since Reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, Nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends. And when, after three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther."

 --  An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
I really like that.  You get yourself out of the darkness of thinking either by "relaxing this bent of mind" or "by some avocation, and lively impression of [the] senses."  Isn't Hume the greatest?  Don't you think he'd have appreciated, for his backgammon game, the board at the top of this post?

5.  So "The Kramer Is Now" expresses my ambivalence about reflection, and is a reminder to all of us, to Cool It With The Thinking Already.

6.  I'm an "accidental" philosopher.  Accidental as in "happening by chance; not planned; "nonessential or incidental."  I never set out to become an expert on The Big Questions like What Is the Meaning of Life?  In fact, I studied math in university and graduate school and never studied philosophy 'til I was almost thirty.  I like studying philosophy a lot, but as you've understood if you've read so far, I'm not wholehearted or unambivalent about it, and I don't regard myself as being inevitably involved in the pursuit of truth or anything like that.  The thing I miss most about math was the way you could go for years without being asked for your opinion about anything.  In the humanities, one has to produce dozens of opinions every day.  It kind of wears me out.

7.  "Encounters modern life":  pretty self-explanatory.  Modern Life and I have a complex relationship.

8.  Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter.  Patricia Marino, Girl Philosopher.  You get the picture.

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