Khalid Hussain (khalid_hussain) wrote,
Khalid Hussain

Dawning compassion?

I went to the library on campus after a meeting with the new Dept Head on Monday and took out a book about Hubert Selby's writing, his novel Requiem for a Dream and a short of book of interviews with Badiou and Žižek, who were two philosophers that were given special mention in the latest issue of Adbusters. I also received a DVD in the mail of Aronofsky's Pi and Requiem for a Dream, because I wanted to see Requiem again and look at the extras this time.

As I began reading about Selby's work, one theme that emerged was how his work combines the flavor of American writing (screenplays, pulp fiction, and even hard-core pornography) with elements of European existentialism. Of course that would appeal to me. There is also significant critique of the addictive nature of consumerism in his work, which naturally resonates with the leftist periodicals I've been reading.

Perhaps most signficant, however, is the emphasis on the combination of arrogance and self-loathing in most of Selby's protagonists (or anti-heroes). For "arrogance" I might substitute the term "grandiosity," but still, it's a pattern that is quite familiar to me. Considering these characters from a literary standpoint, I can see how I turned on to existentialist literature in my adolescence but just didn't find people in my environment who embodied that kind of intensity. That changed when I went to college, especially when I came out and started venturing into the gay scene off campus. On or off campus, I was drawn to people who were extreme, and then would become puzzled when their irrational, self-destructive tendencies would come to light. When I began meeting people along the spiritual path who exhibited some of these characteristics, I rediscovered a sense of excitement and engagement that had been missing from my social life, but I conveniently forgot about the chaos that can surround such people. Or maybe I never really appreciated what a dead-end existence such people can have because, when I was younger and living in a college town, friends and lovers seemed to be a nearly inexhaustible resource.

I think it can be useful to focus on characters such as these when we are doing "shadow work," but then there are the challenges of dealing with what it means to be an adult and exploring what the possibilities of that might be. I'm getting better at letting myself go through depression, frustration, rage, etc., when I feel pressured to spend time with colleagues and administrators prior to the start of the semester, and when I contemplate the various demands on my time and attention that will come once the semester starts. Once I go through those feelings, it's easier to face the actual encounters without bringing so much hostility into them as might have been the case before.

So I made it through my meeting and I made it through a potluck dinner, and I find that my colleagues and administrators seem more vulnerable, tired, and confused than I recall their appearing previously. I find myself watching and listening and, I guess, not giving up my center as easily as I used to.

So, now, on to the rest of my day.

Om Namah Shivaya,


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