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This Ambiguous Life: Act 3

May 12, 2009

Act 3: A philosophical orientation

Many of my friends and family members know that I have, at best, a tenuous relationship with academic philosophy.  I often compare it to a relationship with a bad boyfriend who is rude, demeaning, and altogether emotionally abusive.  And then just as I’m getting ready to pack it all up and leave for good (which I would encourage anyone to do if s/he were in such a relationship with another person), something happens–a paper gets accepted to a conference, I get a compliment from a professor, I read a section of my dissertation that strikes me as not completely inane–and I think, “Aww hell, I’ll give you another chance, honey!”  (Again, if one of my friends found him or herself in a similar situation, I’d tell them to GET THE HELL OUT and LEAVE THE BASTARD BEHIND!)

Unfortunately, I often transfer my dissatisfaction with academic philosophy to philosophy in general.  And then I start doubting my own abilities (it’s called “internalizing the abuse”) and wondering whether or not I even have the philosophical chops to stick out this whole grad school thing.    (Don’t cry for me, though.  The only thing that separates me from a PhD are 100-or-so pages that I need to write in my dissertation, and I’ll be damned if don’t finish it!)

But then just as I’m wondering whether or not my work in philosophy has just been a passing obsession, I realize that I am now (irreparably?) oriented toward the world as a philosopher–even when it comes to my current work as a doula and birth advocate.  For example:

What was I doing two hours after A was born?  I was commenting to a friend about how his birth revealed to me a concrete example of relational autonomy.  How did I respond to Hanna Rosin’s (ridiculous) article on breastfeeding?  I analyzed the concepts of oppression and social relationships.  How do I describe my love of doula-work?  I explain that it allows me to put my feminist and philosophical ideals into practice.  (That and, of course, it affords me the honor and privilege of bearing witness to the astounding and miraculous beauty of childbirth.) 

In fact, I’ve even absorbed Simone de Beauvoir’s conception of ambiguity into the way that I wonder about the world.  It popped up in the following conversation with Tim the other day:

Me: Tim, you know what’s weird?

Tim:  Everything that Willard Scott says on The Today Show?

Me: Well, yes, that.  But think about this—to me, the span of my life is everything to me.  It’s all of the time that I will ever have.  But in the grand scheme of things—if I’m considering the entirety of the history of the world (which, for the record, has lasted much longer than 4000 years)—my life span is only a miniscule speck on the “big” timeline.  I’m simultaneously everything and nothing.  My lifespan is everything to me, but it’s a relative nothing when considered in a larger context.

Tim: Yep.

Me: And then think about this–on this planet alone, what started out as a bunch of slime has progressed all the way to M and A, our two beautiful, amazing boys.  And in all of this tension between “everything” and “nothing,” my love for them and the meaning that they give to my life is total and all-encompassing.  Isn’t that incredible?

Tim: Yep.

Me: Do you think that I’m a big nerd?

Tim: Yep.  And that’s why I love you.

Me: Good.  Let’s go get some ice cream.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. renbeth permalink
    May 16, 2009 11:58 am

    Where did your beautiful green background go? 😦

    Or is it part of your philosophical orientation to shake things up every once in awhile? 🙂

  2. BirthingBeautifulIdeas permalink*
    May 16, 2009 1:39 pm

    My blog is currently trying on new clothes. Hasn’t found anything it likes better than its usual outfit, however. 🙂

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