Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting published, Pomp and Circumstance, and the Pink Umbrella Man

A couple of days ago, a student in one of my classes asked me if I knew any philosopher who held the view that we can never really know who we really are (I'm guessing she was probably fishing for information that might make her look smart at parties.).

My first thought on hearing this question was, "Gosh, you have pretty much named every single philosopher worth his or her salt, starting from Socrates all the way to Sartre!" But I didn't say this; I kind of waffled a little, and gave her some neither-here-nor-there response (the only other alternative I could see would be to subject her to an impromptu lecture on the history of western philosophy right there and then, and I wasn't quite ready to do that...). She replied by smiling politely ("What a intellectual wimp this guy is; can't even give a straight answer to such a simple question!" she might well be thinking), and we went on with the rest of the class.

The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that this student had not realized the magnitude of the question she had unwittingly stumbled upon in her quest to be the life of the party. Let me give you a very recent example from my own life which will illustrate this philosophical conundrum. Earlier today, I was notified via email that my paper on procrastination (for more details, see this post) had been accepted, with minor revisions, for publication in a peer-reviewed philosophy journal. This is, to date, my first "real" publication. Which makes me now an officially published scholar! [Cue Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance.]

Needless to say, I am feeling very pompous and self-important right now. But here's what's really interesting: Looking back, I realize that the bulk of this paper was written in the first half of last year (2012), when shit was really hitting the fan in my professional life. It's really interesting, because as far as I was concerned, all I could see at that time was the shit that was hitting the fan. But unbeknownst to me, underneath the shitty surface, creative forces were brewing and percolating. So you could say that I did not know the full extent of what was going on in my life at the time, and therefore, you could also say that I did not know myself.

And indeed, if we think about this a little more, when do we ever really know ourselves in the entirety of our inglorious being? All we ever see most of the time are the surface ripples of our everyday being. Perhaps, in moments of unusual lucidity (maybe when you are in your deepest Kapotasana), we might get a glimpse of the subterranean depths underlying everyday being. But for the most part, we just kind of get swept around by things on the surface, and go with the flow as best we can, while the subterranean depths continue to do their work on us...

I'm not entirely sure what else I can say about all this right now, other than to congratulate that student for hitting on the right question, even if she did this with the not-so-noblest of intentions... Well, maybe I'll go eat a big Mexican dinner, and indulge in my self-congratulatory pompous state of mind while it lasts (as you might already know if you read this blog regularly, I don't get to experience these states of mind all that often). More later.


In other news: Speaking of pomp and circumstance, I just stumbled upon this Youtube video featuring the Pink Umbrella Man of Santa Cruz, California. I've never heard of him before, but apparently, he's like the local meditative sage of Santa Cruz. Check this out:

Intriguing, don't you think? One of the commenters on this video said that he used to be a college professor... wonder what happened? Did he finally see the light, saw the futility of the whole academic rat race, and decided that experiencing enlightenment is much more valuable than talking and theorizing about it? But why the pink umbrella outfit?

Anybody reading this from Santa Cruz? Care to fill us in about this person?


In yet other news: I will be attending an Ashtanga workshop with Randa Chehab, the owner of Down to Earth Yoga in Bozeman, Montana, on the weekend of February 15th to 17th. Randa has just returned from her annual studies with Lino Miele in Kovalam, India, and will be sharing her knowledge with all who come to the workshop. I just got off the phone with her, and she is really excited about having me there. I am also very excited, not least because this will be my first Ashtanga workshop in almost two years. I will try to share my experiences there on this blog after the workshop. Stay tuned!   


  1. This is my first time visiting your website, but I found a lot of interesting information.From the volume of comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one! Keep the good work up.
    Ashtanga Yoga

  2. Bozeman is insanely beautiful. Enjoy the big sky.

    Head to Chico Hot Springs if you have time after Randa's workshop - beautiful drive over the mountain and up the valley, and really healing waters. My mom and dad soak there at least once a week. :) Closer to town, Bozeman Hot Springs is less aesthetically interesting, but still deeply healing this time of year.

    1. Yes, Bozeman is beautiful and awesome, and not just the sky; I discovered the last time I was there that there's actually a very nice independent bookstore downtown. I can name at least two or three bigger cities that don't have such a bookstore.

      But anyway... I'll certainly check out the springs. I'm quite sure my body can certainly use some good treatment :-)

  3. Ah, no need to perish just yet huh? Congratulations Nobel! Aim your lens to share a shot of that Bozeman sky with us.

    1. Yes, hopefully I have stayed the axe for a little bit more :-)

      I'll see what I can do with that Bozeman sky...

  4. OK here's how you handle these types...

    (Student raises hand in middle of lecture)

    Student: "Is there any philosopher holding the view that we can never really know who we really are?"

    Teacher: "Yes."

    (Teacher resumes lecture)