#56) On thought

Thought & talking comprise my “why” for this podcast series. Speaking to thought more specifically, three things which I find especially amazing about it: 1) how it directs our actions; 2) how it constructs our notions of meaning; 3) how it enables us to communicate/ how we communicate it. I believe art (which I define as contemplations and dreams) enables some of the most in depth glimpses into a person’s thoughts, how they think, and the focuses of their thoughts. In my case I like to identify and record contemplations and with as much clarity as I can, which is not only an aesthetic idea but encompasses my system of philosophical thought. I believe art tends to be an expression of one’s philosophy. I believe that art also stands beside journalism and history as in helping ourselves and posterity gain a fuller sense of understanding the human experience. 

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#55 On moving some place better (part 12: the starving artist phase– South Beach, FL)

The idea of the “starving artist” is one, which during the first part of my time in South Beach, I revered and practically worshiped. It’s one thing to tell you about my “aesthetics” specifically, but quite another to tell you about how I conceptualized what an “artist” is, how I evolved in the sense of identifying myself as an artist, and the story behind that evolution.

This story begins with my father who was a photographer and a painter who possessed extreme (maybe excessive?) fascination with female sexuality, nudity, and pornography, and who exposed me to the imagery of female sexuality before I was even a teenager. It was through my father that I was also exposed to and influenced by the works of Picasso and Van Gogh. As far as my own interests were concerned, by the time I was 9 or 10, I discovered the world of television, movie acting, and John Travolta. In fact, Travolta became my hero and idol. I became a sort of expert on his career and he is one of the earliest direct influences in my attempts to conceptualize art, as well as career, and to have a career as an artist. 

Even before I developed a conscious love for movies and acting I was, it seemed, inherently creative. I would pretend my life was a series of television shows. I would determine theme songs of these “TV shows” and when nobody else was around, I would ever pretend to give interviews about them or explain what had happened “previously on…” whichever imaginary show, or what would happen in the next “episode.”

Through studying the works of Travolta (along with Tom Hanks and other actors) I grew exposed not merely to film acting performances and a notion of career, but also I became a kind of autodidact of film in general, specifically film dialogue and the themes in movies, such as race relations, the Holocaust, American history, love, art, et cetera. 

The girlfriend I had while living in South Beach, was, herself, an aspiring filmmaker with a profound passion for film. By the time I was living in South Beach I was more interested in poetry than film but the notions of art and film that propelled my artistic inclinations as such were so deeply embedded within me that despite other problematic aspects of our relationship, our shared love for film became a foundation for our romance. 

(TO BE CONTINUED…) 

***PUBLIC COMMENT is a podcast presented in the form of extemporaneous personal essays about a political, philosophical and artistic millennial as he tries to wrap his mind around the complexities of the human experience.****

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On the Mueller testimony

News organizations widely reported that the Mueller testimony failed to capture much of the country. As to why, exactly, I think it is more complex than some may think. Beyond claims of apathy, cynicism, or Mueller’s failure to “perform” as some would have liked, there is the rather important consideration that many of us have to work and experience varying degrees of economic anxiety and other day-to-day pressures that make wrapping our minds around the upsetting drama in Washington something much easier said than done. While I was able to listen on my drive to the tutoring center, I did still have to “work” on things beyond the production of Public Comment, and when I didn’t, I still had my own marketing, branding, and aesthetic contemplations to improve Public Comment in mind. So, while I am concerned that too many people are apathetic, to be fair, I don’t know how much has more to do with juggling life than general apathy. As for the main stream media, I was saddened by those who placed so much emphasis on Mueller seeming not “as sharp” as he used to be as I wondered if in so doing they may have overlooked a number of other possible, contextual factors, such as possible anxiety over the high stakes of his testimony, and/or what he knows, but can’t tell us, but perhaps wishes he could tell us? Whatever you make of Mueller’s testimony, I hope enough Americans come to care so that as a nation we can get our act together and start taking care of our troubled government. 

***PUBLIC COMMENT is a podcast presented in the form of extemporaneous personal essays about a political and philosophical millennial as he tries to wrap his mind around the complexities of the human experience.****

Visit the Official Public Comment Podcast Website

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Subscribe  to my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/seanoconnoressays/featured 

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On the psychology of starting your own business and more

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It’s awkward talking about one’s efforts to create a money making project. It’s something which not only impacts your own psychology but also the psychologies of those you love. Do they fear what would happen if in your chasing your own dreams, to no fault of your own, you fail? How do you approach or contemplate the question of getting those you love excited about your work? And what about their work? How do we strive towards appreciating one another’s work more and better? Also, I had this crazy dream that I conversed with former mayor of NY, Rudolph Giuliani. Does that mean anything? What is the definition of philosophy? Lost in a thought, I forget to follow up on it.  

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-tu49s-b7ee0e

Hi! Thank you for visiting Public Comment and welcome!

I’m Sean O’Connor, a political activist, philosopher, writer, vlogger and podcaster. My goal here on Public Comment is to contribute to a universal dialogue of critical, creative, and introspective thought on politics and philosophy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my contribution to the public discussion on politics and the occasional tangent. I am extremely grateful and flattered and hope you are able to find some of the information on this blog valuable.

Please feel free to share with me any feedback you want to give, positive or negative. I do not shy away from criticism. I want to be a good writer and to do that I will always need your help to keep me accountable, clear, reasonable, and diplomatic. Speaking of diplomacy, that’s my only caveat when it comes to criticism. I don’t have patience for insults or anti-intellectual attacks on character, et cetera. I like to foster a polite and diplomatic civil discourse.

Thank you again.

On moving some place better (part 11- the role of my hippie phase)

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The so-called “hippie movement” or “counter-culture revolution” of the 1960’s utterly fascinated me back in 2004 as I began my Freshmen year of college. The poets and artists of this rebellious generation– I thought of them as the ones the universities should be teaching but weren’t and were thus depriving their students. Among these artists were: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Paul Simon, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Arthur Rimbaud. Unlike my parents, other close family members, religious leaders, or people I was close to, these seemingly revolutionary artists and a certain ethos they seemed to share became my sense of guidance. Through them I sought metaphysical, aesthetic development and self identity. One could not properly understand who and why I ended up in South Beach without first understanding the influences who shaped the mind which led me to be there. 

Hi! Thank you for visiting Public Comment and welcome!

I’m Sean O’Connor, a political activist, philosopher, writer, vlogger and podcaster. My goal here on Public Comment is to contribute to a universal dialogue of critical, creative, and introspective thought on politics and philosophy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my contribution to the public discussion on politics and the occasional tangent. I am extremely grateful and flattered and hope you are able to find some of the information on this blog valuable.

Please feel free to share with me any feedback you want to give, positive or negative. I do not shy away from criticism. I want to be a good writer and to do that I will always need your help to keep me accountable, clear, reasonable, and diplomatic. Speaking of diplomacy, that’s my only caveat when it comes to criticism. I don’t have patience for insults or anti-intellectual attacks on character, et cetera. I like to foster a polite and diplomatic civil discourse.

Thank you again.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-5d674-b7beab

On Graduating College (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #8)


-From an F in Math in fifth grade to a 3.98 GPA and a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies at 33 years old… my views on education have evolved significantly-

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The philosopher and writer Michel de Montaigne– whose work I had the opportunity to study in college– continues to influence and inspire me. I revere his contribution to the development of the “personal essay” and the written treatment of individual subjects from the perspective of reflection on experience with/connection to such subjects. In this context one can learn about the person in particular, the human soul in general, the topic, in a conversation as opposed to a lecture or pure argument. And in the case of essays such as the sort Montaigne wrote, there’s the freedom to digress, in his case, in and out of history, philosophy, politics, et cetera.

I think of Montaigne now, as I contemplate my extemporaneous, thinking-out- loud- as- I- go approach to vlogging and podcasting, and as I touch on the subject of graduating college, from the perspective of someone who once received an F in fifth grade and dropped out of college multiple times to someone who fell in love with academia, graduated with a  3.98 GPA and was granted the privilege to speak at his college graduation. That is to say, there is, among the ironies, the irony that while I possess some “academically” derived thoughts on my academic experiences—I mean, based on scholarly articles, and university research from which I could merely synthesize that sea of research—I could not speak with accuracy if I detached from my personal connection to this subject.

To graduate at 33 as opposed to 22 years old, at points in my reflection, brings sadness and regrets because sometimes it can seem like all this does is confirm some notion of myself as slow compared to my smarter peers. Yet I don’t think that way about those who are my age or my elders who earn their college degrees later than is “conventional.” That would be to do what Ayn Rand referred to as “context dropping.” As one former professor of mine once said, “you never know where you are in someone else’s narrative.” She was actually citing a former professor of hers. Moreover, what is the problem with not going right to college or never going? College simply offers an array of specific opportunities to receive specific sets of knowledge. Seemingly countless resources of knowledge exist beyond the college setting. What matters is not whether one attends a university or not but rather the question of what one seeks to learn and what one aspires to achieve with that knowledge. (This is not to say that I downplay the incredible value, especially of community, that various types of schools, whether university, college or trade school, can offer. I think too much autodidacticism might lead to isolation and a kind of anti-social philosophy; at least this turned out to be the case in my experience).

Central to the context behind my academic struggles was mental illness (depression an anxiety specifically) combined with incorrect and poorly defined, fundamental philosophical principles. Even when I possessed a scientific epistemology, I didn’t think about how it applied to much more than science. I had no real sense of values. Not because my family failed to instill them but because I wasn’t taught, in high school, any kind of serious intellectual presentation of theories of values and ethics. How much of a difference would that have made? How much difference would consistent mental/psychological check-ups have made? I don’t believe in torturing myself with “what if’s” but I do like gaining an understanding of context behind how events transpire. That is something I gained from the many history courses I took.

So, with psychological and philosophical reasons for detaching from “school” from elementary school through my first few years of college, I retreated to the arts. In my childhood, horror stories, movies, writing, and acting were my refuge.

As inclined to the arts as I may have been, with very few exceptions, I treated my artistic endeavors with profound narcissism. That is to say, the concentration I put into writing, passionate though I may have been in some sense, I feared any kind of real feedback and thus, while I always hoped for people to praise whatever poem or performance I shared with them, really, alas, I didn’t think about it as constructive feedback to help me produce anything meaningfully consequential. It was largely my escape from academic standards at play.       

By my sophomore year of college—when I attended Florida Gulf Coast University—I experienced further ironies. While convinced of my incompetence and lacking “belief” in knowledge, I was nonetheless engaged in philosophizing and extracurricular study of poets who interested me, including Kerouac, Ginsberg, Dylan, Morrison, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Ovid, Sappho, Shelley, Lennon—all the ones I considered the “rebels” of poetry. Even after I dropped out (then returned, then dropped out again, then returned, then dropped out again…), I remained avid as a reader, and persistent in my desire to be something of an intellectual artist or an artistic intellectual, delving into Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, William James, John Dewey, Dostoevsky, Napoleon Hill and eventually Ayn Rand.

My Ayn Rand phase with even more ironic yet because I became an “objectivist” who now believed in “knowledge” staunchly so, and spent all my free time reading non-fiction books, yet I still maintained my “anti-academia” perspective. This newfound objectivism, alas, failed to facilitate my eradication of the frustrating poverty and tedium of cashiering, even when it led to my first run for political office. As I thought more and more about my life logically it occurred to me I ought to return to college and there I saw, gradually, the pile of contradictions that made up my puritanical sort of “objectivism” (I call myself, for a lack of better words thus far, a “clarificationist” because I believe we can strive for objectivity and gain ever greater clarity but never quite get a point of absolutism or pure objectivity). Likewise, I saw the flaws with my libertarianism as I took courses on poverty, Native Americans, women and the law, the Holocaust/Nazi Germany, the U.S. judicial system, et cetera, and learned how leaving people “free” to exploit and abuse leads to exploitation and abuse. Not in every case, but often enough that it remains rampant today.

I thought, as my college education reached its final chapter, that an MFA in Creative Writing was in my future. This seemed to me the ultimate way I could build a community of greater person- to -person understanding, empathy, intellectual freedom or free thought (which is what Creative Writing came to mean to me as a concept) (I mean, as a “creative writer” and professor of the subject) and even though I’ve been offered an opportunity to study at graduate school, the last five months out of college have thrust me into deeper questions about the meaning of practicality, contributing the world, making money, finding a place in these revolutionary times, and making the most of the college education I received.