I’ve always flirted with writing a blog. You might think it’s in my blood—my father runs a tech blog that gets 300,000+ hits a month. But it’s not the blood (for a couple reasons). Mainly, I am just self-centered.
Now, this blog is interesting, because its readership will include immediate family, extended family, friends from home, friends from college: quite the intersection of people who know me. But what you all have in common, dear readers, is that you care to hear what I have to think about the two months I’m about to spend in Costa Rica. And unless I’ve horribly misread our relationships (speak up), you also like me. You’re nice to me. So perhaps you’re mentally protesting right now: Jacob, you’re not self-centered!
But let’s play with words a little bit: when I say I’m “self-centered,” what I most want to assert is that I am centered in myself. My actions issue from my desires; the things that most concern me are my concerns; my internal monologue of thoughts, feelings, sensations, whatever: they’re my thoughts, feelings, and sensations, defined with reference to me. I am the sun in reference to which the star system of my life is defined. (My life, a cosmos. I am the center of myself.)
This is not to say I’m more selfish than the next guy. (I think?) Everyone is like this (I think): we do what we want because we want what we want. This doesn’t preclude “selflessness,” or loving other people—Nietzsche insists at one point in Ecce Homo (a recent read) that “selfishness” of a sort is requisite for loving. We love others; I, accompanied by my joy and pleasure, love you, my readers.
What this self-centeredness means is that I am, in this blog, going to be reflecting unabashedly on my thoughts, my feelings, charting their planetary courses as they turn and revolve over the next two months.
I’m going to be discussing my experiences as if they were very important—which they are, at least to me.
In short, I’m going to have fun with this. (Can’t you tell?)
But wait—pedal back a few parentheticals: what does “I am at the center of myself” mean? How can x be at the center of x, be a part of itself, inside of itself? It doesn’t make geometric sense. And yet this represents a common mistake in how we think about ourselves. We think that we are some consciousness, some mental faculty, some “thinking thing” apart from our lives, our experiences. We hold our experiences—feelings, actions, desires, perceptions, whatever—apart, and say that we perceive these things, we think or feel these things as something apart from them. (Readers familiar with Descartes: think Descartes.)
But we are not separate from our experiences (the matter of our lives). Readers, do an experiment. Consider everything you’re feeling and thinking about right now. As for me: I see my computer screen, I hear music in my earbuds, I sense cold air inside this airport lobby; I feel weariness at knowing it is still hours to go until I board my first flight out of New Orleans…
Strip the feelings and the thoughts away: where’s the “me” leftover? (Hume.)
Readers, consider the moments that have defined your lives. As for me: I was born, I was adopted, I was loved well, and still am. My parents raised me, my teachers taught me, my friends and I have had a lot of fun. My mom died. I graduated high school. I went to college.
Strip away all these things: where’s the “life” leftover?
We’re nothing without our experiences. But this doesn’t mean that our experiences—feelings, thoughts, joys, griefs—are all we are. They’re not enough on their own. (Hume!) We must order them, structure them, interpret them and make sense and meaning out of them. We must make music out of the noise. We are not “thinking things” alone, yet but the thinking is critical. Experiences, and the thinking about experiences: we need both.
(Hence, Kant’s own version of Descartes’s “Cogito ergo sum” only comes after—and exactly when—our experience has been completely filtered and structured through our understanding. That ultimate synthesis between experiencing and thinking is where the I is.)
Thus the purpose of this blog. This is where I will think about my experiences, and thereby more fully incorporate them into myself. The next two months will, I promise, be full of adventures. Perhaps: studying contemporary Costa Rican women writers, studying Latin American dialectology, putting on programming at a San José park, exploring museums, visiting a volcano, hanging out with my host family, hitting the beach on the Pacific coast, hitting the beach on the Caribbean coast, eating gallo pinto for breakfast (every day? I hope!), taking tropical dance classes…
…Tropical dance classes? New experiences make us into new people. Perhaps I will come back a little bit different from the person you knew. But, dear readers, I will keep you up to date.