Thursday, September 30, 2010


I went to Missouri yesterday with my roommate Steve to visit his house and pick up some of the things he left behind last time he was home. Two other friends came. We stopped at a Denny's when we were still in Illinois but far away from Chicago and were being a little obnoxious as we sat down. John imitated a Missouri accent (pretty badly) and gave some guy the wrong idea, because he came over (a little drunk) and asked us in his outside-voice if any of us could tell him how a person gets to Pi. We didn't know, even after he came back from the bathroom and asked us again, so he explained it to us (sort of) and the more he spoke, the angrier he became.
"I thought you said you were smart."
"I'm from the South, and I'm an engineer. You smart kids can't even tell me how to get to Pi!"
"and how many times does seven go into thirty?"
He went on for a while and made us so uncomfortable that we could only let the pressure out through unintentional steam-releases of painful giggles. This probably made him angrier. He told us he was here to pick up his son and reiterated that just because he was from the South, it didn't mean that he was stupid. After going on long enough to be sure of having won (which he had), he walked away, ate, put on his feathered hat and left. The hat complimented his leathery face, white hair and goatee, brown cowboy boots, and attitude. We sat in our booth, wide eyed and pathetic and confused and a little indignant.

My friends and I thought about this event for some time after the man departed. After replaying it in our minds, we came to a difficult realization: that we were really the bit players in his unfolding story, credited after the movie as Obnoxious Guys at Denny's #1, 2, 3, & 4. We observed only the tip of the narrative iceberg, which was undoubtedly complex and dramatic. He had us beat the minute we started talking about mathematics. And our behavior was so typical, the audience would have known from our entrance whom they were supposed to be rooting for, and it wasn't us. We were small-timers; meanwhile here was a man on a journey with the spiritual dimensions of a Russian novel.

The moral of the story is that it's unwise to imitate regional accents at a high enough decibel to be heard in a restaurant that lies along an important national highway. And furthermore, it may be just as unwise to assume that you're the main character in every scene of your own story.

Mr Engineer from the South, I hope you find your son, and whatever else you're looking for.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Keeping the Hope Up

I have a second follow-up interview today at three with one of my prospective employers. The job would pay well and I could get close to full-time hours; plus, two of my housemates work for them already and love it. Fingers crossed.

Here's a poem about résumés by my favorite poet. It's called "Writing a Résumé."

Writing a Résumé

What needs to be done?
Fill out the application
and enclose the résumé.

Regardless of the length of life,
a résumé is best kept short.

Concise, well-chosen facts are de rigueur.
Landscapes are replaced by addresses,
shaky memories give way to unshakable dates.

Of all your loves, mention only marriage;
of all your children, only those who were born.

Who knows you matters more than whom you know.
Trips only if taken abroad.
Memberships in what but without why.
Honors, but not how they were earned.

Write as if you'd never talked to yourself
and always kept yourself at arm's length.

Pass over in silence your dogs, cats, birds,
dusty keepsakes, friends, and dreams.

Price, not worth,
and title, not what's inside.
His shoe size, not where he's off to,
that one you pass off as yourself.
In addition, a photograph with one ear showing.
What matters is its shape, not what it hears.
What is there to hear, anyway?
The clatter of paper shredders.

-- Wisława Szymborska

I hate selling myself, but I've been told it's what you have to do if you want to get the good jobs. I certainly believe that I'm well-suited to the positions for which I've been applying, but in interviews I feel like I've been repeatedly baited into hyperbole; I talk about myself like I'm God's Gift to the potential employer, following the implicit suggestion of the interviewer. I can't put my finger on exactly why this bothers me so much, but in any case, I hope my season of unemployment ends soon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pointers for Getting the Mail

  • Stand back
  • Shake the mail just in case
  • Wear more than what you slept in but don't dress up
  • Costumes are allowed
  • You're not obligated to tip anyone for it (the mail)
  • The things that require a response from you will not go away if you ignore them
  • Greet your neighbors if they are also outside, getting their own mail
  • Don't go out of your way to greet your neighbors
  • Don't follow your neighbors into their houses to greet them
  • Check first for turkeys
  • If the turkeys take you by surprise when you go to get your mail, remain calm
  • If necessary take the car
  • If someone sees you take the car to get the mail you will need to go somewhere else too

Monday, September 27, 2010

Time and Unemployment

Time is today's leitmotif. The existential situation that is unemployment will be briefly interrogated through particular conceptions of time.

To begin: Augustine said (echoing several ancients) that time is merely a record of change. It is ontologically secondary to space, the context for events, which would in this case actually be the condition of the possibility of time.
Much later, Husserl insightfully penned a phenomenological description of time that he called the "internal time consciousness." His explorations revealed that absence is partially constitutive of our experience of time (and therefore, of life): the present only makes any sort of meaningful sense in the context of what has preceded it, and what is still expected to come.
Music is a great example. Melodies, in the moment of listening, can be beautiful (shoot, can be intelligible at all) only for having in mind notes not being played: the comet-trail of the last note before the present one, and an anticipation (fore-projection) of the next note in the series.
For another example, when we are with someone we know well, we are not primarily aware of their sheer factual presence. The meaning of their being with us has to do with what they are not, currently. It's what they have been (and done) in the past (all complex questions of what constitutes identity aside), and what they love and desire (also present aspects of them partially constituted by absence). One might say, with Sartre, that it's their transcendence, as opposed to their facticity, that is important.

And so.

When you're unemployed, time can flow like this: nothing for most of the day, a lot of aimless putzing, and suddenly, apologies to several people for having (again) triple-booked yourself. You feel as though you have all the time in the world - not much at all is changing - so why not say 'YES plz' to every invitation to a 'thing' or suggestion of a rendezvous?

I understand better now how little things can come to have significant personal meaning. Unemployment un-structures your life; you feel like you could lose your grip without having something to give your time the heartbeat cadence of normal hours and anticipation, like meaningful involvement in something that matters to you. Small things - reading or writing projects, creative work of some kind, volunteering - can become staples that reattach your consciousness to regulative structures like goals and desires that involve delaying gratification (one way to put down the more unreflective animal nature, in favor of a more distinctively-human kind of self-regulation).
Plus these small, personally significant activities can act as a balm for a particular wound inflicted by empty time. Internal consciousness of the present is supposed to contain content, as opposed the innate absence of the past and future. With a dearth of content in the present, one's past and future seem to converge in absence, and the result is a feeling of a-temporality. The present becomes another nowhere, like the suburbs a lot of us live in.

But still, for all the projects, when you're unemployed it feels like there aren't really weekends, just a pair of extra days identical to the ones you were given during the week. Time becomes like consciousness, an empty set demanding something to fill it. And it inevitably fills because it never stops, even for those who themselves have stopped. Nothing may appear to change, but all matter vibrates, even if only imperceptibly. This is problematic for those of us who would rather have the world wait for us than have to run to catch up with it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the unemployed person has recourse to the internet, in order to stave off the perils of a-temporality and stasis. Here, s/he is able to apprehend present content. The only problem is that the internet is another peculiar nowhere, like the supermarket at which s/he can't afford groceries.

Time is a complicated problematic for the unemployed person with open eyes; perhaps, therefore, it is better to live through unemployment with eyes half open, in order to avoid the vicious feedback loop of unproductive introspection and inwardness. There are, after all, better ways to use one's downtime.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Points of Interest

Apparently, this could be the 21st century's Citizen Kane: The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, is a loosely factual Facebook biopic laced with ambition, betrayal, and intrigue. After six reviews, the movie holds on to a ridiculous 100% aggregate score on Metacritic. It opens Friday.

Speaking of the very young and very rich, I just found out that a friend who graduated with me is making an upper five-figure salary working for a Fortune-500 company.
Meanwhile I can't get an effing library card. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim so much.

Regarding employment: so far
  • I have been offered one (1) part-time job
  • I have been called back for one (1) follow-up interview (after an initial group interview)
  • I am expecting one (1) call for a telephone interview
which means that I have three pretty good leads. The one job would be only okay, but the other one would be really pretty okay, and the other one than the other two could be pretty okay as well, probably. But I don't have a real basis for these claims outside of intuition, so don't quote me on it.

a friend is putting in one (1) good word for me at a bookstore
which is a place I would love to work.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Future, Anxiety, and Love

Today I spent some a lot of the afternoon with a group at a restaurant. My friend John is visiting from New York, and the conversation at one point turned to the the open question of his future plans. John is torn between staying at home in Queens with his family, where he is in an LSAT study program, and moving out here to be around other recent grads and people whom he loves. It was difficult for him to talk about because of the tension between the strength of his desire to come back to this area, and the total reasonability of staying with his parents. In part, he feels unable to commit to returning here because he doesn't (yet) have a grand plan or design for his life.
Some days it feels like everyone around us (us = me and my friends, all early 20's and recently graduated) expects us to have our whole futures worked out, down to the minutiae. We're given a lot of mentor-y advice, and hear a lot about discerning the will of God and figuring out one's particular "calling" and "purpose." I am pleased for my friends for whom discerning the will of God for one's life is a reasonable undertaking, but I don't speak for a niche minority in suggesting that purpose and calling and God's will can be tricky things to apprehend, even with a lot of hard spiritual work and the best intentions.
Sometimes all you have to go on is a love or a desire, and sometimes that love or desire is for something that is unmistakably short-term or even imprudent. However, I think it is appropriate to borrow an insight from the German philosopher Martin Heidegger: that care is our most basic, foundational stance towards the world, and what we care about (even in the short term) can go a long way towards telling us who we are and what we should be doing. For some Christians, embracing a love or a desire may be essential for them to be able to develop a less-mediated relationship with their idea of the Good - one that isn't as densely filtered as "I'm going to have to consult with my pastor and check the scriptures to see if it's acceptable for me to work part-time as a performing artist," or a similar theologizing cul-de-sac. Some Christians seem to believe that if God doesn't call them up to give them specific clearance for pursuing something, that thing must not be a part of his perfect over-arching plan for them and therefore ought to be abandoned.
I believe in total depravity; I also believe in God's continually working to redeem and transform desires in the lives of those whom he has redeemed and is transforming. To question desire automatically in every case is a symptom of unfreedom. So, I told my friend John that he should return here, maybe even without a life-plan, in order to get a job, be with friends, and allow himself to pursue, for the time being, one or two of the things that he loves. Who knows, perhaps a big-picture plan could emerge out of the provisional pursuit of a deep-rooted desire.



the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, also by Chabon
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (for whom I am named)

Total amount spent:


. . .

God does love us!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Today, it got blessed by Dr Gauthier from Church of the Resurrection (well, ideally, blessed by God, but Dr Gauthier facilitated). We prayed blessings out of a little booklet over each of the rooms and Dr Gauthier would sprinkle holy water over them. I guess this is analogous to my change-of-address with the post office yesterday, just with God. I will take my forwarded abundance at this location from here on out, k thanks.

Also, there is a gang of wild turkeys that roams around our neighborhood, searching. For what, I wonder? Who knows. But one thing I do know about them is that sometimes they like to block our driveway. I would never approach them in anything smaller than a sedan. They look fierce. Perhaps, with the house having been blessed, we will one day wake up to their having been domesticated by the Holy Spirit, who would additionally give them a desire to live with us as pets.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Aldi Gauntlet

The other day I was getting groceries at Aldi when I experienced a sudden bout of anxiety. It happened as I approached check-out with my cart; I had engineered my shopping pattern for last things in such a way as to guarantee an arrival in line behind, at most, one other shopper, in order to minimize waiting and self-consciousness around such obviously experienced pros. This worked as I had intended. However, the deftly-handled canned goods and bottles, the implicit camaraderie shared by seasoned mom and late-twenties cashier, and the mutual understanding of a need for quickness and efficiency in their totally ordinary transaction scared me. There was obviously a secret code! An order of adulthood into which I had not been accepted! This real-person's world, real living grocery-purchasing "I'm making it okay for now and ps can cook for myself" person's world had no current vacancy for me, and I was left with two options: fake it, or wear my incompetence endearingly on my sleeve, possibly damaging my delusional aspirations to mature personhood forever.
I chose to fake it. These were groceries, for the sake of everything good and important; if I couldn't handle groceries, how in the world of God's strange design could I handle my bank account, or having a legitimate job?
I resolved, and then acted. I started putting my things on the belt from the back of my cart, then thought, wouldn't this be easier from the front, before moving around to the front to unload other items from the front of the cart. This was going as well as I could hope, but with a loaf of bread in my temporarily palsied hand I realized the woman in front of me was paying and about to leave with her own cart - I would need to replace her cart with mine in order for the cashier to put my paid-for goods back into my cart! So with a willful and inefficient movement I rolled the cart back in front of me while simultaneously pulling out cartons of juice and apple sauce cups. The look the cashier was giving me at this point was, in a word, disinterested, until I ran over my right foot. Her eyes grew with concern. This guy just ran over his own foot with his shopping cart. I gave no indication of having felt anything and continued to drop cans and cartons on the moving surface, vacantly smiling in order to comply with the demand of my rapidly heating face and doing my best to make occasional non-threatening eye-contact. My hopes for her having not noticed my idiocy were broken with the first two words to be directed at me.
"Okay, honey," she said as she leaned into the accumulated groceries and began to ring them up. This unfortunate pair of words was a sledgehammer to my pride and pretense of self-possession. My acutely-felt failed performance of competent adulthood was emphasized further by the care she took during my purchase to be accommodating. I replied to her kind rapport in the barely-audible mouse voice of the recently shamed.
"You take it easy now, honey," followed me out the automatic doors with the escaping wind of the A/C. It seemed to be a sincere and well-meaning instruction, primarily for the sake of those unfortunate enough to care and destined to be nearby during my next demonstration of ineptitude in something totally ordinary and adult.


  • To tap out a couple of observations a week, gleaned from my newly minted post-college currently-unemployed life
  • To make sense of things in a way that may help other people to make sense of things
  • To have a few laughs
  • To keep the hope up