Saturday XVI • 23 June 2007

On the edge of a breakthrough here; and it’s a sensitive time. My spine’s been talking back to me all week—a long last protest before she submits to something like alignment after embracing chaos for 10 weeks. Just stand up from my deskchair, and the accordion plays. I love it. My vertebrae aren’t quick to sublax, so after they went haywire in April in response to the sudden back-tension, they’ve been equally unwilling to marshal back to their quarters. So this is good; and someone in a backroom in my head is singing “Like a Virgin.” Time to re-learn some things.

Hello, backbends. Bring some endorphins with you when you come. Gawd can I use them. And goodbye entropy… for now.

But yeah, it is a sensitive time. And for the sake of the change, and the fact that the reopening does feel risky, I’m going to hold the scene constant right now. So I’m holding off on practice this weekend in Encinitas, and taking on the LA Film Festival as consolation.

Internet-diversions from this morning.

? First, last Sunday’s story on Chinese goldfarmers—the workhorses in multiplayer online games who labor for virtual money then arrange in-game exchanges to deliver it to RL rich players who then reimburse for RL cash. I’ve been waiting for The Magazine to write this story, because it is obsessed with social ambiguities: and what’s good about this story is its ambiguities. It delivers complications to every existing theory of choices within markets, virtual economies, work/play, and the metaphysics of online identity. There IS a world inside the world, in this sense: and the boundaries between the two are incomplete. Such a good story of our time.

? This is a frightening (and inspiring) commentary on UCLA research on students who say universities are failing to offer them the moral (and spiritual) development they feel they need. The article makes contradictory generalizations about the values university education promotes; and among my many responses, first is that all education is value-laden—even if the values it transmits are for rationalist objectivity and the scientific method of inquiry (or, alternatively, post-rationalism). Academics know this: and are moralistic about the craft—because (until we discover Bourdieu) we think we have to choose sides in the interpretation- versus- explanation battle. So, many academics to chunk off anything that looks like “morality/spirituality” within the world and ourselves—hermetically seal it off as unimportant subjective nonsense, and leave it to languish. Until one day we look at those childish beliefs, realize they’re just a collection of old superstitions, and chuck them altogether.

Anyway, the article says that students turn to conservative religion, especially Christianity (which is happening at alarming rates all over the country) because professors refuse to offer moral or spiritual information.

Maybe if my students had more classes whose motivating question was “How should we live?” or “What is the good life?” let alone studies of mindfulness and peace, they wouldn’t overwhelmingly report that their central educational goal is to learn to make as much money as possible. To be crude: the generation is out of joint, but it appears to know it.

? Pankaj Mishra’s (backgroundreview in NYRB of Martha Nussbaum’s new book on India. Great short history on recent Hindu nationalism, and of social pressures brought by the WTO and other trade reforms and sudden economic change.

Not much discussion of Nussbaum, except for (1) on her point that the ruling party makes a “surreal” mixture of pro-corporate politics and promotion of crazy violence and (2) her Gandhian thesis that “the real struggle that democracy must wage is a struggle within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality.”

In the final section, Mishra discusses the “culture of capitalism that thrives on ceaselessly promoting and multiplying desire,” and the selective ways in which India’s conversion to a consumer society is working with, and against, these tides of political violence.

? And, a trailer for an interesting little film. Parkour meets West LA.

Human Tetris.