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If I was a book in a library, then I'd finally be free

Archive for December 2007

Part Warning, Part Memory

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This is Kitten, also known as: Nimbus (his “official” name), B/G/Moose, Toosie, Goose Goose, Hoose Hoose, Professor Hoose’n’Toose, Butter Bunny, Puddin’ Pants and The White Monkey of Doom. He died on Friday the 28th, after his health declined sharply due to vomiting, loss of body-temperature, dehydration and aspiration pneumonia, associated with still unexplained problems with his kidneys, liver and a possible bowel obstruction.

Kitten in Carrier

The most gratingly painful dimension to his passing are the ambiguous traces of a cause to his death (and in that culpability in it) that lure both Kristen and I to an impossible task of reconciling his otherwise young, unmitigated vitality with an assortment of factors ranging from his diet, insufficient concern on the part of his vets, insufficient advocacy on the part of his owners, and a blur of genetic factors probably never knowable. In the end, he is dead.

While not truly knowing what set the particularly irreversible chain reaction that killed him, it seems that it resided more in his body as such (i.e. his genetics or the failure of certain organs to perform their functions), rather than an immediate factor in his environment (i.e. a bowel obstruction or potentially hazardous turkey juices [my first thoughts early in this crisis]). In this regard, Kristen and I feel we fell short of our jobs as responsible pet-owners for not heeding the warnings from many of our vets of the dangers of commercial pet-food. I won’t unleash it all here, since you can find more elsewhere online, but the problems with his kidneys and his bowels seem consistent with dietary complications associated with the unnatural composition of most, if not all dry commercial cat-food. To say the least, they contain a quantity of grains not consistent with natural cat diets, but also chemicals inserted to maintain “freshness,” flavor of the ostensibly meaty ingredients, and sometimes things like ostensibly digestible plastics that serve as fillers.

For the sake of your cats, I urge you to consider exactly how irresponsible and dangerous it is to feed them a diet that, with all the appropriate translations, we would not feed a human. Some people advocate raw-meat, while others do not, and still others advocate preparing meals at home, where the ingredients can be controlled for variety and quality. I am not here to settle those debates, but to suggest that they are worthwhile. To those of limited income or unlimited miserliness, this will seem like a ridiculous luxury that only “pet-freaks” lavish on what are in the end “just” animals. Humans are “just” animals too, mind you, and a similar epidemic in our diets has at least some media and medical attention. Not many question the common knowledge of how bad too much of anything in a human diet can be, to say nothing of decades of subsisting on Purina Human Chow. Why, then, do we not sulk a little when we turn this all-too-common knowledge to the world of the animals that live with us, that are in so many ways too much like us for us to admit?

None of this will bring Nimbus back though, nor really fill his absence. Kristen and I loved him perhaps more than we loved each other, though now that is all we have. He was our little boy (not even 3 years old), and a complex, beautiful and magnificently intelligent creature. Do not under estimate the love and attention that the animals, human and otherwise, in your lives need for a full, happy and healthy life.

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Written by Joe

December 31, 2007 at 9:18 am

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Emerson and His Critique of So-Called Me-First Individualism

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Sorry that it’s been so long since I posted last. The end of the quarter kind of consumed me, and then decompressing for the last two weeks made me oblivious to most things too. I am now in Austin, Texas for the week before Christmas with my partner, Kristen, visiting her family.

I caught an article this morning at Salon.com on Emerson and the Transcendentalists as “America’s Me First Generation.” I guess that it is a review of a book only half-mentioned in the article, though the tone of the whole piece is like that of a conversation you might have with someone who just read the book and is interested in talking about the subject of the book, and not the book as a subject.

The jist is that Emerson, who famously wrote that essay most of us read in High School, Self-Reliance, and similarly self-focused Transcendentalists were at odds with more socially-focused Transcendentalists.

This was the puzzle that the Transcendentalists faced: It is hard to remake a human being without also changing the society around him, but it is even harder to change a society when the human beings in it remain their old, recalcitrant selves

To this end, Miller represents or furthers a representation of Emerson as a beginning to what is today recognized as an abhorrent “me-first” or “me-me-me” attitude qua consumerist demand.

Some of us have even managed to convince ourselves that individualism is the only viable route to social justice, sharing Emerson’s faith in self-reliance as the consummate virtue

This is just poor argument of equivocation though. It is accurate to say that Emerson advocated a kind of way of life that turned on the individual rather than society. It’s even fair to say he brought this across as a way of making life better for people. Where Miller throws Emerson out the window is when she, like the author she seems to be reviewing, connects this notion of the individual to so-called individualism. Emerson is a very hostile to this individual, which Miller echos when she writes that he and other Transcendentalists both objected to “the materialistic, status-conscious ruthlessness of life under the reign of industrial capitalism.”

Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance is a critique against this individualism, which is a herd-mentality, to borrow from Nietzsche, the only person who seems to have read Emerson in the 19th Century. The trust in and reliance on ourselves that Emerson talks about is not the naive, self-made capitalist-Objectivist. For Emerson the motives driving this formation of the individual were as outside of the self as the authority from which Kant, in “What is Enlightenment,” says we must release ourselves, lest we remain unenlightened and spiritually/intellectually immature.

All I can say for now, because I’d like to post this now though I have to go, is that Emerson undermines the contemporary feel-good individualism that Miller would like to agree really starts with him. I will try and update this post this week with some

Written by Joe

December 19, 2007 at 10:29 am

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