What is the right way to express one’s self? I felt, for far too long in life, conflicted by this question. The “Public Comment” experiment had gone through several different iterations: vlog, video diary vlog, political commentary show, podcast…what was I actually doing!?! And why? What should I really be doing? And why?
The more research I did, and the more thinking I did, the case for focusing on a making Public Comment a podcast grew stronger and stronger. From the perspective of pure logic it seemed to follow that my thought could reach more people if they didn’t have to “sit and watch” me for an hour; if instead they could listen, whether driving or just “chilling” on the couch.
Up to this point though, I was fixated and the vlogging idea. (I remain in love with the talking-head vlog, however think the most effective approach to the medium is to keep them under 15 minutes or so, and think they work great as part of a wider, supplementary multi-media approach, along with the website, essays, et cetera). I was so inspired by Proust, Musil, Dostoevsky, Montaigne, Joyce, Whitman, and all the great artists who dared to share their consciousnesses without concern for their verbosity, how time consuming their works were, et cetera, and how intimate a glimpse we have of their souls, that as far as I was concerned, I was simply exploring and capturing the soul. Thus, Public Comment had been mostly developed as a vlog it no longer seemed logical to me. Frustrated with how tangled my aesthetic and multimedia thinking was, I decided to experiment with a second “pilot” launch, but this time, I was consciously intending to create a podcast, and develop the series from here on out as a podcast.
… I seek this balance of operating with excellence in life all the while…I don’t want to be pedantic. Certainly not to the point that I stifle any forward motion towards constructiveness.
I think one of the most important things I could possibly say at this point in time in my life is that I am so sorry for all of the destructive mistakes I made in my past, whether they hurt someone, or me, or not.
Most of all, I’m sorry for all the times I disrespected or offended my wife, or my mother. And I’m sorry about friendships I may have ruined.
Looking back on my past it seems something must have been deeply wrong with me for I was just so incapable of basic, rational, critical thinking. The perfect illustration of this was that, despite inheriting money from my father when he passed away, and despite having people in my life who loved me so much, I spent all that money, strained all those relationships (I am beyond grateful to have repaired many of those relationships) and I achieved…really…nothing.
A college dropout making at times no money, contributing nothing tangible to society, flaunting my cockiness, my arrogance, my pretentiousness, acting as if I was a philosophical genius despite seriously lacking in basic education, acting as if, with all of my failing relationships, that it must be them that is the problem and not me… these memories, the fact that this was me… particularly prior to about 2017, but especially prior to about 2011, these memories haunt the hell out of me but I don’t want to be marred by them anymore.
I take just the slightest bit of comfort from a quote in a book my mom bought me when she traveled to Ireland. It’s a book about James Joyce and censorship. James Joyce is cited as writing this to his wife:
Now my darling Nora, I want you to read over and over all I have written to you. Some of it is ugly, obscene and bestial, some of it is pure and holy and spiritual: all of it is myself
How many of us, I wonder, if we look in the figurative mirror…or maybe even a literal mirror, can find something about ourselves which we find horrifying and never want the world to see, hiding in shame?
As much as possible, I do not want to “hide” in shame.
How do I reconcile that with the shame I feel towards so many aspects of my earlier self? How are we to deal with mistakes? Well, we must not let them ruin our lives and interfere with finding happiness or defining what we have become– that which we prefer.
And so…what of memories that we cannot seem to block out which trouble us so?
What of those wretched things?
What of the time I said to my mother “Fuck you” which to this day nauseates me, horrifies me, tortures me?
What of the times when I treated women like extensions of my vanity or people to use to assuage my deep depression, anxiety, paranoia, anger, loneliness, dread, and that whole plethora of troubling mental states?
And how I failed to be “responsible”– to clean this or that, to throw out the garbage when I should have, when I went to some job high or drunk…when I drank too much?
When I insulted anyone!?! When I started an argument just because I wanted to feel like I might win it? I hate my old self so much that sometimes all I can do is crucify him as to show I am no longer him. But if this person was someone else, how would I treat him or her? I’d ask; what’s up now that’s constructive and good?
I’m a bit frustrated this afternoon because I don’t make very much money and because I don’t know exactly what “job” is right for me while I take my time learning how to make money vlogging.
I do realize, if I really want to keep a video journal that is of substantial worth, it is not going to happen over night. I want to do this correctly. In the meantime then, I must find work…I must find a job where the workplace culture consists of people who believe deeply in the ethics of compassion and who believe in enough objectivity as to not fight each other physically or verbally, or with lies, double crossing each other out of terror that he or she won’t make as much money as the rest or that someone else will take his or her job from him or her.
Are my standards too high?
Would I not find at the end of the day that the New York Times does not lay on a pedestal? That people on NBC are not perfect?
The truth is…while I work on this artistic endeavor I am terrified of aiming for the wrong job, for missing something else, for not approaching the search correctly. I am quite capable of doing things wrong. And I don’t want to do this wrong. I was wrong after all, about my aim for graduate school and frankly it hurt and makes me feel like I wasted a lot of time and mental energy…but I also can’t be pedantic.
Isn’t it ironic? We try and uphold this belief that we’re supposed to do things right and when others to wrong, we can be hard on them, chastising them. Not always. Sometimes we watch from the sidelines and are willing to support them in thinking for themselves. But even the supposedly non-judgmental, I would imagine, are critical. In my hippiest of hippie phases, with all my “peace and love” I was still critical and harsh. So….I seek this balance of operating with excellence in life all the while…I don’t want to be pedantic. Certainly not to the point that I stifle any forward motion towards constructiveness.
I despise the clips I am about to share with you here. They horrify me. At times because I try too hard to sound like some kind of “cool” Jim Morrison poet hippie or cold stone realist Charles Bukowski type guy. But should you watch what follows, you will see I try to wrap my mind around thought, around sharing thought, around our economic system, around metaphysics, politics, art, et cetera. It was a lot of “jive talking” but to get to Joyce’s point…it was me.
And if I want to do this video diary thing right…and if I want to really commit to the value of preserving an evolution of my thoughts on things day to say, it seems reasonable for me to share with you a sort of prologue to the prologue, a rough draft of the rough draft, as I experimented with topics of focus, and how I dressed and wore my hair, and how I interacted with the camera, et cetera.
Recently it was suggested to me that the way I write can be perceived as uninviting and that I keep my audience at arms length. I don’t know if I agree. Or maybe I did. And maybe you think I still do. But hey…here I am, at least trying to be honest, and to get closer to you, to be more inviting the best I know how here and now. Moreover, imagine if we never taught our children, or if we never learned, what happened during the Holocaust, or what Americans did to African Americans or American Indians. Just because I am not proud of who I was in these videos doesn’t mean I should erase who I was either.
My name is Sean O’Connor and I thank you for checking out my video diary vlog. I call it “Public Comment” to underscore the value of commenting on one’s most valued thoughts publicly, of soul-sharing. Though I like to think wide and deep in our increasingly specialization -and -niche oriented international society the three most basic subjects my diary tends to focus on focus on include politics, culture and self. Though my approach is philosophical, political and intellectual, I’m also emotional and artistic. I’m a registered Democrat and thus lean liberal but I don’t bind myself to any political party. I’m 33, live in New Jersey with my wife, recently graduated William Paterson University with a BA in Liberal Studies, and currently work as a writing tutor for Mercer County Community College. Please enjoy my videos, subscribe if you want to follow along, and join the conversation in the comments sections.
…suddenly it occurred to you that in fact, if you look at it from this other perspective, you could make more money doing x, reach more people doing y, keep your soul doing z, et cetera…
To what can I attribute the confusion over the decades plaguing me with respect to matters of career?
So many things happen to interest me.
In the broadest sense, I suppose we could perhaps characterize my condition as culture transfixion syndrome? (My father– who was a psychologist– actually hypothesized sometimes that I suffered from ADD. Ironically now I’m the opposite of the ADD type– I enjoy hyper focus to the point that the slightest distraction irritates me like nails on a chalkboard– even innocent things like a text message alert from my cellphone while I’m reading and taking notes on the news.)
Anyway, my point is that in my utter fascination with life and culture, naturally–I hope you’d grant– I like envisioning cultural improvements: better movies, better politics, better literature, better philosophical principles. How does one pick from that lot when one wants, in the broadest sense, to conceptualize what it might mean to help and do one’s part in advancing us towards “a better world?”
Yes, since I was a kid I’ve had lofty ambitions though in those days perhaps those ambitions were… more egotistical?
Marred by my sense of utter and complete incompetence, I suppose the perfect elixir was the dream that one day I might be the opposite.
You know…day in and day out envying like mad hell the people you think look so much better than you, who are so much smarter than you, who come from so much more money than you— of course you might, in this context, dream of something that feels better. I think even when I used to want to be president of the United States— at least the first time I believed I wanted to do that– in part I just wanted to believe I really could achieve it! When you have the bizarre notion that everyone around you is just inherently better than you…if you have a certain kind of defense mechanism you want to think you could be as good…maybe even sometimes you want to think…I could be better…to feel like you are better…or best! Have you ever “been there and done that?” Wished for the feeling of true excellence? The kind that wins you praise, money, sense of power?
But at some point– I can’t say exactly when– I began to change and care more about…just wanting to prove to myself I could acquire and develop a basic sense of competence and critical thinking ability.
One reason I’ve always been so shy is because I knew at least that I didn’t really know how to think about things critically– how to process, for example, the latest news that…oh…for example…if we were to apply this to today’s news…that Google said to hell with Huawei! And what that means..
. (I say, Go Google Go! Right on! God bless China and all but I’m not for enriching those who imprison critics and Uighur Muslims just for being critics and Uighur Muslims. And I think Google demonstrates some sense of integrity– even if in theory it is good PR to suspend business with Huawei and the protest isn’t entirely genuine– Google didn’t HAVE to make any kind of stand. There’s plenty I don’t know about Google but I know I respect that they’re not afraid to make Huawei think!)
Anyway, my point is that just a few years ago I would not have had the courage to even contemplate technological news because I lacked the confidence.
And so now…to get…psychological with you…it would seem…my sense of ambition is transforming…focusing less on maybe…subconscious (?) needs to believe I can grow more valuable than I believed I was — and now…more on …very…direct…interests.
Is “direct” the right word?
I’m interested in thought in a very cut and dry sense…personal thoughts on navigating through life, interpreting and processing the surrounding culture, and acting ethically, thinking logically, talking “straight” as some may put it…straight as in straight forward, not heterosexual…though I am heterosexual but I have nothing but love and support for the LGBTQ movement, sexual liberation, and all of that.
I should tell you, the career aspiration confusion though…it was more complicated than that.
(Hey…if you want to know the value of an English degree or a few literature courses…it’s understanding in a visceral way, beyond the psychology “research” papers, the complexity of human nature…I think we are rather rarely so 1, 2, 3, or 4 etc dimensional.)
Even when I’ve been at my most belligerent and condescending, would you believe me if I insisted to you that I had good intentions?
Really, even if my thinking has suffered severely from extreme irrationality and subjectivity, I’ve usually had good intentions and usually have desired deeply to do my part in making this a “better world.” Even in my acting days, as a young teenager…for example, I played an Auschwitz survivor, and wrote the one-man- movie about him, and the goal was to raise awareness about the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust.
I also played a cocaine addict. I didn’t write that movie but took the role seriously because I believed in raising drug addiction awareness.
Even in my love for the Bee Gees by the way…their music is about romantic love…as opposed to anger, hatred, utter depression and despondency…
So…you get these lofty hopes for the world in your mind and you wonder—well I don’t know if you do…but I have…I wondered…what is the best way for me to make this a better world based on my understanding of what a better world might be!?!
And the little things can mess it up. For example, at times I’ve not wanted to be a poet SIMPLY because I know very few people care about poetry and therefore my efforts could be in vein.
At times I’ve not wanted to write political commentaries because…unless I have a column…who is gonna care. It’s not like the New York Times is gonna publish my Facebook note. It’s not like my opinion holds so much weight. So…when your ambitions are intense and for awhile your convinced of a particular strategy by which to expressyour ethical hopes only to find that some bit of information suggests…seemingly credibly to you— that your strategy and your plan is ultimately useless…that no one will care…(isn’t that the worst one…feeling no one will call in the massive din of competing voices?) or that suddenly it occurred to you that in fact, if you look at it from this other perspective, you could make more money doing x, reach more people doing y, keep your soul doing z, et cetera? Could I get an amen on this one folks?
Have a great day in the meantime and I shall chat with you tomorrow.
Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.