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Robo-man

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Oct. 26th, 2012 | 09:46 pm

I just finished reading Badiou's essay on Sartre, "Commitment, Detachment, Fidelity," which is in the collection The Adventure of French Philosophy. I hadn't realized the extent of his professed debt to Sartre. I had had the impression that most people considered Sartre to be passé, so I have been working around him, but this essay inspired me to buy a copy of Being and Nothingness for myself for my 50th birthday. :-)

What has really inspired me to write this entry, however, is the fact that I went to the Sbux one town over from where I live again, earlier this week. This is the one I go to when I want to be away from campus and away from the house. It is the one in which I met the young man that I chatted with for an hour or so a couple of weeks ago. The other day he was there again, in the same chair, and the table next to him--the one I was at when I met him--was free, so I greeted him and set up my computer there to do some work.

We talked a bit this time, but not quite as energetically as we did before. I noticed that, just as he had done the last time, he periodically sipped from a bottle of Robitussin. The last time he seemed to be getting over a cold, but not this time. I noticed that he would sip from the bottle, then take a sip of his Sbux beverage--which seemed to be a flavored ice tea in a large, clear plastic Sbux cup--then resume playing with his iPhone (on which he was watching a video), and then repeat the sequence a few minutes later. I noticed him do this several times.

When I got home I did a Google search about people who sip Robitussin habitually, and that's when I learned about DXM users, otherwise known as "roboheads." I've done a bit of reading about the DXM subculture, which is actually rather fascinating.

This has brought up some strange feelings in me, including a desire to find other places to go if I feel like having an Sbux fix. It has also brought up some curiosity, and some sadness, as I consider what it might be like to be caught up in an addiction to cough syrup, if indeed that really is the case with him. It has led me to value my sobriety, which seems to be taking on further dimensions as I find myself drawn to continue reading the work of Badiou and other modern philosophers. I also thought about the psychoactive effects of what I am now thinking of as "social mysticism," and of how unremarkable a number of experiences in those environments have been when they are compared with anecdotes of people who have used DXM, MDMA, or other "dissociatives." Part of the effect seems to be an increase in attunement to other people, in empathy and intuitive insight, combined with a strange detachment from normal feelings. I think about the fellowship and the "agape" among people in social mystical situations, and how often the effects wear off quickly after the ritual or the retreat is over. In some respects, it's like a big Ecstasy party: big fucking deal. I also read about psychological addiction to substances, which tends to involve self-centeredness and preoccupation with trying to remain high. Yeah: been there and done that in social mystical groups, too. Oh, yeah, then there is the decrease in euphoria once the "magic" is gone, the increase in negative affective states, and an increasing sense of fatigue. Been there, done that, too.

In general, I've been at a "so, where do we go from here?" kind of place.

Today I went to Sbux near campus, partly in order to avoid another potential encounter with robo-man so soon after the last one. The former student who hangs out with me ran into me in the hall on campus and wanted to join me at Sbux, so we hung out for a while while I caught up on some work. He then had to leave and, while I was sitting there doing my work, I happened to notice X standing with a woman at the counter, waiting for drinks. I hoped that X would not see me, or would ignore me, and just leave or sit elsewhere. I experienced a kind of dread at the thought of possibly having to interact with him--a dread of the sort I hadn't felt in a long time. I then turned back to my work. A couple of minutes later I noticed that X was standing in front of me, saying that he hoped I was doing well and extending his hand. The nature of the interaction was such was that I couldn't comfortably say anything other than "Yes" and shake his hand. Then he left without saying anything else. 20 years of Indian mysticism and he still acts like an in-denial, middle class, Irish-American Catholic. Whatever.

I felt a sense of frustration that I don't seem to be able to make friends around here who aren't addicts or freaks. The reason I need friends outside of work is that my colleagues are so self-involved and unavailable. So then I look for friends in spiritual groups and find people who are self-involved and unavailable, after an initial period of paying me some flattering attention. Other than my former student and a couple of other people in the dept that I chat with a little bit now and then, I really don't have friends that I hang out with for the sake of hanging out. I would love to be able to relax with people now and then, and maybe get a surprise phone call every once in a while, asking how I'm doing, and do the same for someone else. It just seems like too much to ask for around here. Even the tendency to strike up conversations with people in public places is one of the characteristics that made it onto a list of "You know you're a robohead when ..." that I saw online. Maybe robo-man's initial friendliness was the drugs talking: I don't know.

Expressing a bit of mutual support seems to come more easily to a couple of the Slovak penpals I made over the summer. Obviously we've never met, and we probably never will, but it's nice to have some communication that seems to recognize a common humanity and that isn't complicated by weird shit.


Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,

okm

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