#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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On why I podcast about myself (Episode 54)

In this episode:

I don’t view myself as better, more important, or more interesting than anyone else. And because each of us is so uniquely complex, I think the art of sharing one’s self and the art of getting to know others is good for deepening a sense of community, especially in a culture where it’s so easy to slip into viewing ourselves and one another as mere social media entities or sales pitches. 

PUBLIC COMMENT is a podcast featuring a millennial who speaks to you about politics, philosophy and self as he explores his love for thought. 

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On why I am so verbose

These many contextually loaded “thoughts” I have….like my favorite writers– Montaigne (the genius philosopher and personal essayist– how he is able to combine the two amazes and inspires me… to combine them but via podcast…spoken word….extemporaneous ((but more on other aspects of aesthetics another time…)) Dostoevsky, Musil & Proust: oh, his 20+line sentences…)))– these thoughts, which one cannot even empirically seem to find and which nonetheless move us to speak, write, act, et cetera….in the days of Montaigne, one would call it a very active “imagination.” I just want to be transparent, direct, up front, straight-forward about them with you, and that it happens to be (is a genetic thing, or a deeply held, maybe in some aspects, subconsciously intellectual thing?) that this is how I happen to express myself with as much honesty as I can. That’s what this episode is about. 

*” I used to talk to myself quite a bit and what I would do is I would pretend that I was being interviewed. Some long, long, in-depth interview about my success. I’d pretend it was many years later and I would talk and I would sort of go on and explain my thoughts on things and that was just something I did. It was just a weird habit. I don’t really do that anymore. Not positive when I stopped doing it but… I used to… for example, pretend I was being asked questions about my poetry or ask questions about whatever it was I was writing or philosophers I was interested in, or those kinds of things… and it was… I mean I would feel weird about it.

“I would think there must be something wrong with me but it didn’t stop me from doing it and there are different motivations for it at different times …I was really young…a kid or teenager. What really started all that though was combination of… it was very influenced by TV… as a kid as I think many of us millennials probably…we had TV Before the Internet was really a thing… TV was like our big…was the big mental consumption of our youth… probably pre-Internet youth. I imagine that the Z. Generation… younger people… younger than millennials probably take in more computer stuff and they’re probably a bit different psychologically just from that context alone but I digress… but the thing is. ..I like to digress which I take from Montaigne… but I’ll talk about that later. You probably wondering where it was going with his yes today. I’m talking about my own verbosity… (4:20-6:40)

* “I cannot say in one sentence what I want you to know and I don’t mean that out of pretentiousness or arrogance…. some people are just tall or just short. Some people don’t say so much …” (12:00)

* “I have a definition of “thoughts” that doesn’t quite go with the definitions that dictionaries provide” (37:00)

*”I tend to have a very active brain. That is a reason why I suffered pretty severely from insomnia and need to be on both Effexor and Lunesta… it helps me put my thoughts at a better pace… one reason why it was not a good idea for me to smoke pot. One of the things that would happen actually is either smoking pot would induce racing thoughts unlike I ever experienced before or smoking pot would create such a sort of pause in my pace of thinking that it was actually shocking… literally shocking!” (56:00)

*”Sex is a very fascinating topic. I will talk about that in the future …thoughts on sexuality… particularly the idea of… you know… like the question of how private should we be about sex… and then there’s the whole phenomenon of you know exhibitionism, voyeurism, swinging… these kinds of approaches to human sexuality that are perhaps not so widely endorsed by people and is there a reason for it. I don’t… I’m not gonna get in to it now except to say that I try to have a viewpoint of liberality with respect to how people express themselves sexually… as long as they’re not hurting, abusing anybody. That’s besides the point… self expression… but see… that’s the whole point… is that I like like to say these are things that I think about…  (1:15:09)

***Produced by: Ashley O’Connor and Montaniz Stills!

  Thank you again for visiting the Public Comment, a multimedia website that embraces social democracy and a holistic pragmatic clarification of concepts and seeks to promote a universal dialogue about politics and philosophy among intellectuals, politicos, artists, and humanists– the critical, creative, and introspective thinkers;  a dialogue I hope you’ll join in the comments below.

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On what’s after postmodernism: holistic pragmatic clarification of concepts

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Contradictions, obfuscations, and lack of clarity have not only seized so much of academia (as my friend Heather Lockheart brilliantly discusses in her thesis on the topic) but also it has led to the emboldening of blatant racism from President Trump and his supporters, along with a wider embrace of immorality in general. Trump’s TV lawyer Rudolph Giuliani has gone so far as arguing that “truth is not truth.” Where did this postmodern way of thinking come from? Can we blame Nietzsche? Although postmodernism clearly leads to problematic modes of thought, does it raise any valid points? Is there anything “after” or “beyond” postmodernism? I say “yes!” and that includes some iteration of a holistic pragmatic clarification of concepts. 

PRODUCED BY ASHLEY O’CONNOR AND MONTANIZ STILLS

Thank you again for visiting the Public Comment website which I created back in 2012. After 7 years of  experimentation and uncertainty about the identity and direction the website should take on, I established, in June of 2019, an official focuses on politics and philosophy and launched the podcast. As a political activist and philosopher, my goal here on Public Comment is to contribute to a universal dialogue of critical, creative, and introspective thought on politics and philosophy– a dialogue I hope you’ll join in the comments below.

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On cynicism, meaning and purpose

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A successful individual said I might want to consider quitting in my podcast endeavor because nobody will care unless I make up lies to get your attention. A student tells me a professor insisted that this student write an essay arguing that art is pointless because artists don’t tend to make money and because art doesn’t cure diseases. These kinds of things perhaps make it tempting to feel cynical about human nature and life. But should one really surrender to cynicism and nihilism or is there more to this world than obsession with money and power? 

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.

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On moving some place better (part 3)(Vlog #42)

The developing complexity of my psychology, my determinism, my nihilism, and my marijuana obsession, as I transfer from Kean University to Florida Gulf Coast University (From Elizabeth/Union, NJ to Fort Myers/Estero, FL) between 2004-2006

*My desire to drop out of college and emulate Jack Kerouac, hitchhiking America

*Moving to Fort Myers/Estero, FL to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) felt like a miracle, an artist’s “dream come true.”

*The irony of feeling “liberated”– falling into the depths of determinism & nihilism

*WHY was I really even attending college? I didn’t know…I was just waiting for riches and fame because I was convinced that was simply my fate. Bob Dylan put it so well when he sang:

SOONER OR LATER ONE OF US MUST KNOW

THAT YOU JUST DID WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO

Bob Dylan; Sooner or Later

*Trying marijuana for the first time and falling in love with it

*The place you live and the philosophical ideas you develop when you live there and come to thereby associate with your time spent living there

*My addiction/obsession with marijuana

-I believed I “needed” marijuana to be a “good” poet or become “one with the universe”

*second time I tried marijuana I suffered extreme paranoia and panic attacks, yet I kept smoking it…

On Social & Digital Media (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #13)

Most of my social life has been rather marred by anxiety and shyness. Lately I’ve been opening up though, on social media, experimenting with self expression beyond the written word into digital audio and video. But is digital better than print?  

IN THIS EPISODE:

This vlogging/podcasting endeavor is the most interesting and exciting endeavor I ever undertook even despite the intimidating complexities of social and digital media. I don’t know what the most suitable and efficient multimedia integration consists of just yet. Today I switched from Facebook live streaming to YouTube live streaming because YouTube has much better video quality.

What Facebook lacks in video quality it gains in the likelihood that I might reach a wider audience in the short term, but as I am in this for the long term, I’m willing to produce videos of sharper quality than immediately reach more people. But what about Vimeo? And do I really need to record my videos live? The one advantage on that front is that the live streamed YouTube videos seem to upload faster. But I haven’t experimented enough with video editing and uploading different formats and such.

Vlogging and podcasting are interesting as one might categorize them as mere social media (like a more thoroughly produced status update?) while others might view them as more “professional” (?) media productions. I view it as a kind of hybrid venture: one the one hand, I like the notion of this being very direct, personable, social interaction between you and I. On the other hand, I strive to produce each episode with the utmost in thoughtfulness and quality– at least to the best of my ability.

My investment in this experimental project, from the “social media” perspective is actually surprising to me because whether or not you can tell, despite my political and philosophical assertiveness throughout my life, I have always tended to be quite shy, and even terribly anxious socially.

I did not have a plethora of friends growing up. I had more “internet friends” than “in person” friends. (What is it about the blockade of the computer screen that seems to filter out the fundamentals of social anxiety?)

(Not to say I was friendless, by the way. I was blessed with a few amazing friends!)

One fascinating aspect of social media to me is how it democratizes the marketplace of ideas and products. MSNBC and NPR may have more resources to give them a competitive advantage over me, for example, in their audience reach, but so long as the underdog of social media competition has access to a Twitter or Facebook account, it is quite possible to have an unpredictably massive social impact. As someone who believes very strongly in standing up for his politics and values, I find this notion extremely motivating and inspiring!

I wonder though…are my digital media products that I share on social media safe from material degradation over time? I came across this interesting article on preserving digital materials which links to this product called M disk which is supposed to preserve digital media for up to 1000 years! I’d love to know what major media organizations like the New York Times or NBC think about this topic.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog and podcast where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

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On Failure, Free Thought, and Time (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #9)

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Between my failed attempt turn my self-published book, my three failed runs for political office, and my failed pursuit of a teaching assistantship position as a graduate school student I’ve had enough failure to feel like I’m an expert on the topic. But, like Elon Musk, I refuse to be defined by my failures, so today I imagined myself as the Montaigne of the personal vlog, digressing from topic to topic as I pleased, from failure to time, thinking of Hootie and the Blowfish, when they sing: “Time, why you punish me?”

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.