Saturday, February 21, 2009

All messed up on Kierkegaard and white people

Raven Books recently brought in a bunch of the Introducing Series from the UK's Icon Books and has them priced for $5 each. They are easy to digest overviews of the pantheon of history's thinkers and ideas. More Schoolhouse Rocks than Monarch or Cliff Notes, I was embarrassed to even consider buying them. But then I was flipping through the book version of the hilariously accurate website Stuff White People Like and discovered that I am already an embarrassment and hopelessly uncool by virtue of the very behaviors that I thought were my nuanced indicators of hip. So screw it. I've got no image to keep up and I might as well face the truth about my liberal arts degree from UMass too. I was too busy planning my radio show or looking at girls in class to learn a damn thing in those seven years. So I bought the Keirkegaard and Hegel books and I'm feeling less ignorant by the minute. Laugh if you must. Attention white people! Elliot Smith's album Either/Or is named after a Kierkegaard book of the same name. (Oh. You knew that? Okay. But I can spell Kierkegaard without looking now.) As a matter of fact, the whole notion of Stuff White People Like is that white people think they are Kierkegaard's "Aesthete A" when in fact they are unwitting philistines, a flock of conformists in non-conformist masks. Those cheeky marketing bastards are more insidious than we suspected. Meanwhile, I'm afraid something I like doing now will end up on Stuff White People Like and reveal my utter predicatibility in attempting to be unpredictabe again. (In truth, I don't think I am any more than 98% pretentious. But dammit! Even being self-deprecating is on the list!) Here are some examples from this complete list.

#116 Black Music that Black People Don’t Listen to Anymore
#112 Hummus
#111 Pea Coats
#108 Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music
#102 Children’s Games as Adults
#88 Having Gay Friends
#85 The Wire
#67 Standing Still at Concerts (!)
#62 Knowing What’s Best for Poor People
#35 The Daily Show/Colbert Report
#34 Architecture
#25 David Sedaris
#22 Having Two Last Names
#15 Yoga
#14 Having Black Friends

You know, it's almost too easy to mock white people...American white people anyway. And as Kierkegaard, or more specifically his Judge Wilhelm persona suggests, a way out of this endless loop of seeking meaning and failing, or being exposed, is to choose despair. Give up. Aimee Mann did it. You can too! Stop trying so hard. Then you will achieve a more transparent self, free of hidden fears and regrets, able to escape from claustrophobic self-interest.

(Photo: Final frame of "Magnolia.")

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