All Things Out of Exuberance

In one of my most recent posts, while writing in the wee hours of the night into the birds’ songs of the dawn, I reflected on my hesitations around writing my dissertation prospectus and concluded that I had not been fully preparing myself in ways that I knew were necessary for my own process. I spent those hours acknowledging that there was an unusual amount of fear and insecurity present in me, and I decided to allow myself a couple of more days to do whatever it was that I needed to do to get to a better, more productive place.

The next night, with philosophy books pulled off of my shelf and scattered about my bedroom floor, I ended up reading back through some of my old journals that were stored next to some of my most relevant philosophy texts. I flipped through the past two years worth of random thoughts, reminders, sketches, and poems about my relationships and the most growth-inducing experiences, as well as the tidbits of notes from philosophy talks and other paper ideas that were distributed throughout those now-filled journal pages. As I put down one journal to pick up the next, the next relationship, the next saga, the next series of challenges and reflections, their tan covers were soon intermingling with the books on my floor about feminism, phenomenology, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Of course. Of course it would all come together like that.

With the arrangement of thoughts and feelings and memories and ideas and arguments and personalities surrounding me, I picked up my current journal and began writing. Much like the texts and the books and my experiences throughout the past month of May, what I wrote reflected the near seamlessness of my philifesophy (that may be one of the first time that I have actually used the word in a sentence and meant it as such). I wrote about where I was at in that moment: After a month of dedicating my attention to my own patterns and personal relationships, I needed to create some space for myself and in my head and in my heart to let those realizations breathe a bit on their own. I need to shift gears into work, and let philosophy be the area that teaches me about my experiences. I wrote about the basic questions that will be guiding my dissertation. How is it that philosophy can change a person? How might understanding this effect of philosophy change how we understand the practice of philosophy itself? And as I elaborated upon those questions, without really intending to, I slipped back into addressing relationships (in very transcendental terms no less!): “…we work on cultivating the conditions for the possibility of the relationship…” And with that last twist in my writing, it became evident that what I needed to do was think my personal thoughts (which usually center on relationships) and my philosophical thoughts (which usually center on meta-philosophical questions) together.

No kidding, right?

I was already aware of my hesitations around philosophy. I was being held back by something, and I don’t think it was just a matter of being preoccupied with all of this self-understanding that I had been engaging in for so long. It wasn’t just that I needed to redirect some mental energy to the work; it was that I needed to approach my work from a different place. One that wasn’t riddled with fear, anxiety, and insecurity from imposter complexes, and a place that wasn’t defensive. I don’t want to prove that I am right and others are wrong. I needed to get ready to do philosophy in the only way that I healthfully and happily can–by being fully engaged, creative, curious, and fully open to being transformed by it. I needed to put myself into the project with all of the passion and enthusiasm and glee that I feel whenever I read Nietzsche.

And what I soon realized was that I was also starting to do a weird thing in my personal relationships. These past few months have been really unusual: after ending my last long-term relationship in March, I’ve been surrounded by lots of new people and doing lots of new things. And in the process, I’ve met someone who I actually have started to like quite a bit. It’s been rather unexpected, but wonderfully fun and exciting at the same time. Nevertheless, on that night, I realized that I was going through a pretty common thing that happens when someone starts to develop feelings for another person. It’s the case with me, and I know others who have been through it too, that the precise moment when you start to like someone else is when worries begin to blossom: What if they don’t like me? What if I do something stupid? What if…?

But just as quickly as those feelings were acknowledged, I let them go, because the thing is, none of that matters. Those questions and worries are misleading, if not completely misdirected already on their own. At this point in time, and it may be that this is always the case, I don’t have to impress anyone. There are no stakes on making sure that someone likes me back. I can’t convince someone to fall for me, and even if I could manipulate someone’s heart into heavy infatuation, I wouldn’t want to! To ask, “What if…?” and to approach someone (about whom you are interested in and excited about) from that place is to allow your feelings and actions to be rooted in insecurity and doubt. There is a degree of clinging that wants to bring someone into your life and hold on to them, hence the fear of rejection, but that is not a healthy source out of which one should develop any kind of relationship.

It reminded my again of why I love Nietzsche’s the Gay Science: When we approach work, love, and life out of a type of need, clinging, resentment, or insecurity, this affects the nature of what follows suit. Rather than being wholly reactionary, what if we strove to take on projects, start new friendships and relationships, write philosophy, and live in general from a place of overflowing generosity? Not because of a need to hold on to something or someone or to protect ourselves, but rather because we need to express the enthusiasm, joy, creativity, passion, and love that begs to be given. How would that change our philosophy? How would it change our relationships?

After reminding myself of all of this, I went down to the kitchen and wrote myself a note:

I also used the dictionary to help me put all of this into very dry, concrete terms:

exuberance: the quality or state of being exuberant
exuberant: 1. extreme or excessive in degree, size, or extent 2. joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic, unrestrained or elaborate, especially in style: FLAMBOYANT 3: produced in extreme abundance: PLENTIFUL
exuberate: to have something in abundance: OVERFLOW

Since that night, I’ve been doing more work. I’ve had peaks of motivation and productivity, and I’ve felt a greater sense of relaxation and release in both my work and my interactions with those around me. All of that has, of course, still occurred in between my fair share of summer fun–karaoke, dancing, late nights of hanging out, and cooking lots of farm fresh meals. I also decided to follow up on a suggestion from a friend and read this book with my breakfasts over the past couple of days:

Go here to take a peek inside the book.

It was a good, quick, and easy read, and one that spoke to me on many levels. In fact, I wanted to write about play and how it brings me back to Nietzsche, affect, and philosophy here today, but since I got carried away with these other things, I’ll save that for next time…


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