November 20th, 2013 | University

4,000-word email ‘rant’ hits inboxes

An anonymous sender using the email account yale.thoughts@inbox.com blasted out an email at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday titled “A rant in your inbox! : P” to various students and student groups. The 4,000 word composition was a send up of social phenomena at Yale, in particular conformist tendencies and the focus on reputation and achievement.

“Like all good powerful social institutions, yale tunnels into a protagonist mythical space far from the reaches of individual rational doubt,” the email begins.

The anonymous sender has taken part in Yale institutions, but is fed up with the “repressed, suited, performative culture” of Yale. Do club gatherings really need to be called “executive board meetings?” the writer asked. Yale, by giving students money without engaging with them as human entities, is “similar to a crappy father-figure that we never wanted” the sender proclaimed. Images of warmth at Yale are manipulative cartoons, creating unfulfilled mirages, the writer continues.

Wall Street was no exception to the writer’s angst.

“An image of humanity forms through these limiting conversations that is almost misanthropic, unable to see anything in anyone else because all interactions with others are so empty,” the email said. “thus when we make decisions on wall street we can more easily say to ourselves, “ah, screw it, those that don’t play are losers anyway.”

The sender lampooned the campus for their “overscheduled gcal full of events” or the tendency to “show-off how little sleep you got.” The writer decries the many students that have read widely but failed to embody the essence of the books they so admired. The email advocated for greater interpersonal connection and less focus on individual success.

“Each person you pass on the way to class contains multitudes; each deserve to be given at least 8 hours of continuous conversation; for the more practiced and interesting, perhaps 200,” the email said. “200 is also the number of people you could fall in love with on campus, given the exposure, time, and spark.”

The 4,000-word-plus email ended as all good email do with the exhortation. “Let’s fall in love with another” (and “with our furniture.”)

The full text of the email is below:

the outline of a critique of everyday thought and performance on campus
maximizing: the student as a human
Please, read this as fragments instead of a totality. Read this as the attempt at a description written in a few delirious hours deep into the night rather than a structured argument built to convince. Build off what you find pleasing or displeasing and continue the discourse. Feel free to send back to this email your own thoughts; may send out another in a few months (hopefully better tailored to the audience; can’t currently bring myself to reformat raw thoughts)

The Nature of the Dangerously Heightened Credibility on Campus
Like all good powerful social institutions, yale tunnels into a protagonist mythical space far from the reaches of individual rational doubt. The space that it inhabits becomes tinted with a sense of importance in which everything is taken to the global/world responsible level, a level that is understood only through a distant, numerical rationality and a level that totally forgets the local, the irrational that surrounds us. Let’s be aware of a few ways used to invoke this global duty/sense of importance:
1.      totalizing diversity – importing the best-branded minds from all corners of the world/always displaying its global reach/creating a yale-lens through which to interpret the rest of the world and consequently dominate/overlay systems to strategically understand large units of spaces rather than appreciate and absorb the lived experience.
a.      Subliminal implication: Yale has collected everyone great therefore yale is the microcosm of everything great in the world. All that is great in being human is embodied in the culture here; there is very little else out there that is worth processing. That greatness manifests in a rationality that drills, that is uniform in its approach to any diversity of things, emphasizing the same nodes to use to understand everything while never indulging in anything. This form of “understanding” is implied as totalizing, as all important – other forms that may take longer / use different faculties / be more tailored to the particular are ignored.
b.      Possible & obvious critiques:
i.      Among undergrads, particular greatness defined by individual capacity to work effectively with consistent “logic” – as individuals with high commodity value in labor market – a metric that matters to an uncaring economic machine.  Otherwise not particularly amazing in metrics relevant to emotional dexterity, physical performance, critical capacity, self-awareness, empathy, playfulness, vivacity – i.e. all metrics that matter on the level of the particular. Those with unparalleled talent slowly wither away, valued not for their creative capacity but for their work ethic utilized to achieve that level of skill, thus turned into labor-commodities.
ii.     Individual brands are collected to feed into institutional branding; note that individual brands developed due to skills in one task. What happens on a holistic level is entirely different – people are collected but not connected. People don’t come together communally to form a culture that embodies the zenith of our humanity. Instead, it only propagates an individual culture of how to be awesome at X while forgetting all the other things you do or could do, all things that make you alive/human. This serves the interests of the economic machine that defines you by your X and values you by your competency in the field; it doesn’t serve the interest of the individual, who often has the capacity to be far more the X.
iii.    An immense scarcity of – spaces for communal gathering (note, that’s different from meeting spaces, living spaces, drinking/partying spaces), rituals that endow surroundings with meaning, that give value to hands-on work (work that may be economically inefficient – cooking for 3 hours – but quite important nonetheless), spaces of honest discourse (non-political/non-hyperrational, built around experiencedimage-to-reason), spaces of diversity in age, of creating art/expressing thought without professionalizing it, of relaxed workspaces full of friends
2.      statistical dominance – superior numbers (endowment, rankings, age, etc) in comparison to all Y (universities, nonprofit organizations, nations) point to a godly status.
a.      Subliminal implication: far more a symptom of our american enlightenment-influenced mindset that subjugates, sacrifices, satirizes, or ignores the local/the personal/the ephemeral/the romantic/the ritualistic for the benefit of the rational system or hierarchy, which bodes well for those that want to manipulate systems, creating rational chains to trap masses that think so similarly to the detriment of the masses. Consider chains of politicians, religious leaders, corporate leaders that need to make all function uniformly thus creating rational games; recruiting firms with a particular repressed, suited, performative culture that use monetary baits to trap endlessly. They can’t ever hope to control those that think locally; but so few do that it’s not a worry for them; somehow most so emotionally discouraged and repressed from accessing and training that sensitivity due to the possible chaos it may bring without any productive returns.
b.      Do note – most rational decisions seated on and moved by an emotional architecture that communicates mostly with the irrational/the fleeting. When we minimize our capacity to play with the latter, we ravenously desire a substitute material to communicate with the emotional architecture, grabbing at anything that is allowed inside. We begin to statisticalize ourselves, inventing numbers on elements of our humanity better left undefined by science – happiness, personality type, quality of life, sexual statistics, material well-being. We form an image of ourselves that is so simplistic, so boxed up that we over time become those boxes, even if we could have been explosively creative, endlessly alive beings.  These statistical boxes that we think we are constructed from, now labels with numbers, enter into discourse with numbers that have nothing to do with human biology, imbuing mass statistics like university rankings with human/cultural traits. When Yale ranks so high, we cant help but imagine some kind of magic at work, giving the institution a deep respect previously reserved for shamans. Ironically enough, this demand for magic creates sad attempts at providing that magic – attempts like faux-communal mass gathering that don’t actually give two cents about each individual present, youtube vids of yale warmth, disney like in their manipulation, creating dream states that are never fulfilled, reification of an unremarkable history of white men, and generally throwing money at people as a sign of care, not giving time understand each individual and play, similar to a crappy father-figure that we never wanted.
c.      To get an individual, initially a sensory being that feels his/her way around the world, to spend the vast majority of their emotional investments, mental energy, and time chasing after the abstraction of a successful end, the abstraction of a warm society, to no end, and in that chase become a demon that forgets to feel, think so to achieve a state later on in which the individual feels he/she can finally deserve good feelings, positive thoughts (but never really reaches, then forgets entirely that they exist) is truly a remarkable achievement by any system that invokes all that it’s got at its disposal – individual alienation, a series of discourses that fuel ambition, inferiority/superiority complexes, a state of overscheduled mental numbness, a rat cage of many circular logics – to influence us in making many of our most important decisions. We fail to engage in discourse with one another that voices these deep seated assumptions; instead, we see in our reality and in the people that surround us mirrors to reflect what is already in play in our minds; to continually confirm the same nodes of stress by finding them ever-present instead of, say, going to a new space with people that repaint your surroundings by giving you a glimpse of their own nodes of importance. What’s at stake is not the danger of a particular lens, but instead the seriousness and totality that is implied behind each lens that exists at the expense of the legitimacy of all others in one’s mind; the world is continually molded and redefined and trimmed to fit the circular logic of a particular lens out of the necessity for the preservation and growth of that lens. Take, for instance, the capacity to start defining everything they see in terms of money/efficiency – all phenomena begin to be defined by their market value. When making decisions we think that we could substitute 4 hours we spend in quality conversation with one other person where we let go and reveal everything on mind with 4 hours of fast interaction with many people that leave a slight memory of a spectacle in their minds but fails to matter in any way otherwise, as it merely accesses the superficial parts of our capacity to be excited rather than the fundamental ways in which we think. Or the definition of importance as a definition of where the money’s located, so that you can’t go to rural places anymore because you feel like they are not legitimate realities worth spending time in, despite any aesthetic brilliance/memory importance they may possesses. It’s difficult to be honest to yourself when all these imposing systems continually assert that you redefine reality with their metric and ignore all that you’ve known and loved in the past.
d.      We get a space so heavily defined by its legitimacy/superiority toward all its subjects that we interpret anything that goes on in this space as deeply important to who we are and who we ought to be, forgetting that there is no carng father/mother that passes down a considered culture they sincerely think is best for us, but instead only an institution that aims to get all the credibility for a parent without successfully performing the responsibility. The issue is not that yale is not a good parent – it doesn’t need to be one. The issue is that it tries to be one and sets up the expectation of one but miserably fails at doing so. It could, like most others, ask people so simply learn to grow up. This, however, hurts the institution far too much in creating exploitative emotional connections that are tapped later for donations. A more pressing issue is that there is a dangerous disconnect between credibility established and the reality provided – we trust the mirage of Yale Culture, even if Yale Culture is not a considered one, and certainly not one of the promised greatness (that is an individual phenomenon that owes very little to yale the institution, yale the collector, as mentioned in the recruitment section above). Instead, the culture may be inadvertently formed by hostile (that is, uncaring for you, the individual) forces – labor market forces, aggressive sexual forces, judgmental/competition-to-worth based forces, commodity/materialist forces, spectacle-forming attention-absorbing forces, capitalist mimicry forces.
e.      These forces have the capacity to profoundly oppress those unaware or unknowing due to the buildup of credibility and trust in this space, limiting each individual’s capacity to flourish and instead making them into effective, neurotic, scared, boring workers in a corporate world. Let’s begin -

Be socially superior at one thing; investment in all others things a leisurely activity and a waste of time
As a human that has the capacity to be at once a writer, poet, artist, mathematician, dancer, singer, musician, swimmer, runner, cyclist, dreamer, builder, tennis player, critic, wine connoisseur, epicurean, clothes-conscious, naturist, climber, urbanist, filmmaker, photographer, actor, sailor, designer, yogi, farmer, we find ourselves unable to access the capacity to develop each trait as we have structured that access point through social institutions that always have a corporate-hierarchical setup (do we really need to call them executive board meetings if it’s a group total of 30 people? Ugh) where time investment and mind numbing repetition of the same is expected and rewarded, as is competitive performance in any field that could possibly foster competition, but not the impact, growth, and benefit of the act itself on the individual. Time spent on an activity is legitimated only when well branded or competitively proven to be successful; the moment-to-moment experience is disregarded and ignored, so much so that a well-branded group may be performing a traditionally acceptable activity – but substantively communicate nothing, do nothing that matters, that lasts – and not even notice that there’s something wrong with that. Being 95% in one thing is far more respected than being 35% in 10 things. On the level of the individual experience, we get a mindset in play that constructs reality in an incredibly narrow fashion – often finding relevant and exciting only that which relates to that one thing, instead of building a reality that maps all 10 different things and excites in all the ways each of those ways excite. Nihilism, feelings of despair, etc are a lot more likely in the former world as reality stops being exciting more frequently – defined by one activity of importance, that one activity holds a significant burden to shape the individual’s capacity to see, play in his/her reality. However, when multiple modes of action are opened up and seriously considered, the failure or limitation of one hardly impacts the individual. In addition, there are massive diminishing marginal returns on time investment in each activity with respect to the individual at the initial state – first month gains, 25%, second month gains, 14%, tenth month, 2%. Consider, instead, if we adopted the multi-activity model and instead had 12 first months in a year! Individually, it would be a revolution. Think, becoming a food connoisseur adds so much importance to each bite you eat that suddenly each lunch/dinner moves from the domain of refueling to aesthetic play (do note, American food in particular built stupidly like fuel; there are foods out there in the world that are on their own worth living for!). Becoming attuned to classical/folk/whathaveyou music adds band names that immediately when spoken evoke powerful full-body reactions (if you don’t feel this w/your current music taste, you’re obviously not doing it right!). Becoming a football player attunes you to the feel of true fear and aggression when on the field – it’s so alive! Becoming a poet builds so heightened a self-awareness that even if you empirically live 80 years, you’d experience 90% of those 80 years due to being aware rather than the usual 5% awareness displayed by most workers. *statistics, only to display intensities, obviously not real* Becoming a painter awakens an entire world of shapes, colors, textures that you notice everywhere, the emotional effects of the colors in your bedroom, the texture of a lover’s skin. Somehow I note that for so many, only the next logistical/rational transition of the status of their life is logically allowed to matter — while a pleasant hue of a jacket on a gray winter day might be just as important! (you’d be surprised by the underwhelming biological responses to seemingly grand systematic changes). This may be due to a dull, numb rationality put forth out of so much fear of reality, or perhaps there’s a real risk in being too vulnerable for the individual, or perhaps the individual may be a delusionary prick who thinks he/she deserves far more than the grass, the trees, the people, the music around them, so much more that it doesn’t even exist! For the latter, a newsflash: this world as it exists and you as exist – this is it, more or less. Minor details change, but if you cant already play with the world in a million ways now, your change in position in one hierarchical system won’t really help you play with a million things later; it would only help in forgetting your humanity, your capacity to access all those other domains. There are obstacles that when unacknowledged stop us for years, decades from releasing ourselves to the world and playing sincerely. They may be monetary limitations, but once one hits the 50k mark/yr, it’s far more often the materialist cyclical traps; the self-doubt that forms from a comparative lack of intelligence, beauty, success; the restrictions imposed on the self based off delusional traditions/rituals of repression; the sense of helpless loneliness and alienation; the continual construction of a vague but grand future that makes it seem that sacrificing the present for it is worth it; amongst others hurt and contort our creativity, our expressiveness, our capacity for honest joy in the present moment. Often these obstacles are left unresolved, washed over by the myth of progress, achievement, glory, power as cleansing solutions to all issues – the myth not only fails to release those that succumb to it from their demons but also contorts them to become bitter and resentful over the years, their world still limited and shaped within the constrains of the obstacles for such a long period of time.

The one task demands one to become like machines instead of slowing to feel time, people
Do note, adderall, coffee medicates to perform one task in a manner not too different from attaching a wagon to a wild horse and whipping it to go straight; the horse performs the particular straight motion better than if not whipped, but significantly underperforms the summation of the random motion it might have undertook, in addition to feeling quite terrible. Cutting on sleep, not making time to exercise, abusing your body, signing up for far more than you can handle and proceeding to incessantly whine about it – though you remain alive, it is at a sub-human husk like level. Side-effect: totally limit capacity to absorb all else that surrounds, internalize feelings of any given moment; physically constrained to a very small space, mentally to a very particular mode of semi-rational thought; generally becoming a crappy person to be around as capacity for observing others, empathizing become severely stunted. Everyday becomes a processual, forgettable, unremarkable repetition in a remarkable world. Thus to show-off how little sleep you got, how much coffee you drank – signs of productivity and thereby of implied superiority over another in this culture – becomes far more pitiful than glorious. No one gives a damn or is likely affected by about at least 60% of the work you do here (ha, board meetings, ha). Rather sad to note such extreme measures have to be taken to simply read a book, write a paper, take a test, etc – all activities when done well are done with calm and grace. For too often I encounter people that in name have read many fantastic books – but have entirely failed to embody them, to bring them back to their being – instead, not “read” but used the books, butchered them to make arguments for a paper only, and discarded afterward as inefficient to spend any more time after paper has been written, inefficiently to spend time pondering the material.

One can go through their days following an overscheduled gcal full of events and spectacles built to momentarily catch one’s attention to legitimate oneself or meetings that utilize the lowest part of one’s logical faculties – that of logistical execution – that test one’s ability to keep promises of an expected presence to no avail, performing the antithesis of spontaneity driven by an emotional honesty and openness, instead just showing his/her capacity to be predictable, dependable, machine-like in a particular function as any good worker in the labor market ought to be because the ones designing these labor environments are often not intelligent enough to acknowledge the fact that each worker is a multitude and might work best when given tasks that access different segments of one’s being, possibly even influencing one’s processes of becoming. We convert time into a number that represents productive outputs and build a system of life that maximizes that number, we mechanize the self for activity that is so heavily determined that there remains little room for reflective infinity, emotional processing. The gift of being in a place that allows one to literally do whatever one wants to do is so spoiled by one’s mental limitations. i.e. I gotta work and be always busy to be worthy of being here, and forget myself in the process of being busy! false. I gotta secure X salary 5 years down the road and do everything rumors and institutions that don’t really care about me told me to do without using an ounce of creativity to approach the world and create a comfortable salary on my own, walking down a path so well-treaded that there’s no way it’ll get me what I want! (on that note, banking=rat trap for the unaware but overactive. material desires up, all other play with reality eradicated, one master narrative in mind of salary, but salary already paid to traps developed for people like you- private schools, rent, material social happenings, 2 divorces, etc. selling self for 36mil career salary if above avg? Boring no?). false. I gotta get sum prestige, respect from all the people that I don’t know and wont know and who wont ever really care about me and if they care about me due to this prestige/respect/money, too crappy as humans to matter in the first place so I gotta devote everything I got for the noble cause of me, myself and i! false. yup, millions have thought that done that and are often infinitely boring, alone, trapped as a result. Boring and predictable desires are designed to channel you into situations that take advantage of you; that’s how the labor market works. Our capacity to enslave ourselves to that rationality, that rationality in place of a possibly recently dethroned god, and our capacity to forget our being totally just because of a limited sense of what is important often built us into machines that don’t even look out for each other.  Most win-win situations exist in creative ventures (industrial creativity too) and interactions with nonhuman phenomena, go figure.

Numbness/incompetence/desensitization due to crappy conversations
Each person you pass on the way to class contains multitudes; each deserve to be given at least 8 hours of continuous conversation; for the more practiced and interesting, perhaps 200. 200 is also the number of people you could fall in love with on campus, given the exposure, time, and spark. To each of those possible loves is a universe of warmth and care that will redefine most things in your life the more you fearlessly expose your vulnerabilities. And so I find it so sad that we’ve built conversations between each other that are almost pre-formatted, asking questions to which the answers are already known, not because they relate to the person, but because it’s what the other person is told to say in response to the particular questions, and that we don’t want to put in the energy and effort to say something actually meaningful to each other. Conversations that are polite and considerate and restrained and make sure they don’t take risks and so they do no wrong and don’t involve any activity of one’s own thoughts but only a performance of a character learned through the culture — conversations that follow such a pattern are like corpses, they often feel rotten and a waste of time after having had them as nothing important is normally shared, only time wasted. They form no emotive reaction, no possibly of an incredible joy or discovery. They contain only emotions disseminated across the mass of people. Most often negative emotions are much better at being viral – anxiety, stress, cynicism, sadness – and conversations of interviews, jobs, work, hatred of things are formed. Conversations also become constructed as a continual naming process, naming everything around you, and form repetitive name-exchanges that box up the self as a being constructed of names through these lazy performances of conversations, exchanging logically totalizing information for sake of a logical satisfaction easily forgotten – as opposed to a breakthrough relation forever remembered. We then conceive of ourselves as the names we continually mention in conversation, and these conceptions meld with the associations of those names with the culture that surrounds them – “oh, I am after all a white sorority girls that likes to drink” “oh, I am afterall an oppressed minority” – so dangerous in their capacity to homogenize and destroy any budding authenticity in the individual. Our bodies then perform friendship through acting the part derived from an image of what we previously saw friendship to be, instead of inventing motions based off what is felt between people. An image of humanity forms through these limiting conversations that is almost misanthropic, unable to see anything in anyone else because all interactions with others are so empty; thus the capacity to conceive of others numerically grows as the multitude of others become exchangeable in mind; thus when we make decisions on wall street we can more easily say to ourselves, “ah, screw it, those that don’t play are losers anyway.” Our observations of others then becomes a way to reinforce the same logical systems that limit our mind rather than look at ideas embodied by the other that might be different from or even critical of our own logical trappings. Sometimes, even the questions we tend to ask tend to access only the parts of the other that we find necessary for the fulfillment of our own system – take for instance the type a finance person that always, always wants to know what you’re doing over the summer to place you as worthwhile or not, dependent on a net present value of your worth this type determines immediately upon your answer. The total belief in the one-track minded interpretation becomes dangerous; that person with such a mind loses the playfulness of a child that would see so much more in a human presented in order to embody the seriousness demanded of him by his newly chosen delusion of what is important, what is worth enslaving the self to (note, not particular to finance – totalizing measure X in institution Y that takes itself so seriously destroys A, B, C that is left unacknowledged). We often only gain perspective when we read about the deaths of fellow classmates – people we might not have even known. Consider when speaking to someone next that they might not exist the day afterward, what would you say? What is the most important thing for you two to have between each other? Why not invoke that anyway, even when you can be reasonably sure they’ll be around the next day. Consider that numbers tell us almost nothing when relating to others – the fact that thousands could spent so much time around you and you remain the same compared to the fact that a single individual could turn your life inside out with the closeness permitted in your friendship; absurd, absolutely, to bring this into numbers.  Amazing as well when we consider how this mindset kills any sense of self-awareness – when your body forgets to feel the leather of the couch that you sit on, the temperature of rooms, the aura of people, the sunlight and especially the lack thereof – amazing how winter changes the way people talk, think but so few are in proper conversation with themselves to ever notice that fact, focusing only of their relation to the relevant X. Consider the forgetting of the self, of all the thoughts one has, as system X only demands your “logical” skills. Consider all the barriers that make you less than human. Consider how they can all be destroyed by sincere thought and a force of will.

Let’s begin to taste food again, the air again, to listen to music that moves, to discover and play with the world little by little every day, interacting with all things with an honesty that allows to be open rather a duplicity that forces us to be strategic. Let’s fall in love with another, with our friends, with our furniture, with ourselves. Let’s come closer and be warm this winter. Let’s create poetry, create radiance that emanates from every pore of our being.