“Bad faith also results when individuals begin to view their life as made up of distinct past events. By viewing one’s ego as it once was rather than as it currently is, one ends up negating the current self and replacing it with a past self that no longer exists.” —Wikipedia on Sartre, Being and Nothingness
It was good to be back.
On Wednesday, Sept. 10, 1980, the calendar-planner reads: “School starts at Lakewood Fall Quarter.”
Then, not a single entry in any of the remaining calendar days that month.
Strange. I’d just begun one of the most creatively active periods of my young life. Homesickness was a thing of the past; I loved being away from the Family Project. I’d made new friends at college and formed some intellectual partnerships. And, except for a diary or journal, was writing more than I had before.
How could I not look forward to it?
So, to get some focus on that period, absent said journal or diary, we have to revert to the other, smaller calendar-planner. On Wednesday, Sept. 24, I’d noted a meeting with financial aid advisor Marv Cohan at 10:30 a.m. I don’t recall ever getting financial aid at Lakewood. However I was doing a lot of writing in the back notes section of that little planner. The day before my meeting with Mr. Cohan, I wrote:
“Segmentation is the human kindling needed to combust the energy and immediacy of pure life.
War, killing, patriotism, socialism, nationalism, destructiveness are all visible components of segmentation, mankind’s most dangerous aspect.
Segmentation is impatience and, chiefly, ignorance. It is the world’s most diverse (viable) blind force.”
Well, I’d spent the previous year devising a new philosophical system. It had begun as early as April 23, 1980, in the same notebook: “‘Hollow man’ context with ‘segmented emotions.’” Nearly a month later, another note: “We must check Segmentation! See 4-23 analysis only begun!”
You see, I wanted to be a philosopher. While commuting to summer jobs between school years, I was constantly reading. After returning to Lakewood that fall, I was on fire. I’d planned to write A Treatise on Segmentation:
“Segmentation in Ideology: believed thought, must be expressed…
Segmentation in Communication: expressed only in an apparent ‘non-belief’ situation…
Dreams vs. reality
Segmentation vs. multiplicity…”
I admit all these 30-year-old scribblings are pretty vague, so let me see if I can describe—through the mind of a slow-witted 50-year-old—exactly what I was thinking.
“Segmentation” is duality: the ability we humans have to dice up the world into good-bad, white-black, right-wrong—segmenting something that perhaps cannot be so easily divvied up. I started to call its opposite quality “Oceanic Community.” It flowed all around us. Yet as humans we choose to divide up Oceanic Community so we can consume it in pieces—and, probably more importantly, accept those pieces (or segments) as our “whole reality.”
As I was drafting this post serendipity stepped in, in the form of an essay by Alain de Botton, writing about Jean-Paul Sartre. I was startled to recognize in de Botton’s analysis of Sartre’s philosophy the bare bones of what I was thinking in 1980. And I don’t recall reading Sartre to have even filched a scrap of his philosophical tenets.
For Sartre, rejection of the inherent freedom of human existence was pure and simply “bad faith.” That was the ground I was trying to cover in describing Segmentation. All the artificial roles imposed by humanity on other humans could be discarded by acknowledging their meaninglessness.
Oceanic Community, therefore, was the state of embracing one’s natural freedom.
That fall I was renting the back bedroom of a Mahtomedi home owned by a widow named Mrs. Marvel Weisbrod. It was a mere block or two away from the previous year’s rental on 61 Pine Street. I remember college bookstore friend Mark Luebker’s reaction when I told him where I was living: “Mrs. Whitebread?! That’s rich!”
The student newspaper, the Lakewood Logue, brought me in with open arms as executive editor under new editor-in-chief Rod Gunsell. I had a desk, typewriter, was clad in my corduroy jean jacket, toting my latest book, and at-the-ready with fresh snarky attitude.
On Sept. 25, a Saturday, I was slowly back at work on the treastise: “Vigorous examination of many perspectives cancel out or at least minimize segmentation.”
By October 1980, old Lakewood friends Jill and Pat, Mark, Warren, along with new people, Rod, Lisa, Ed, and a shy, lanky and bespectacled guy we called Spider, all stopped off for drinks at the local watering hole, Jethro’s. That second year at Lakewood, Jethro’s became our go-to hangout. It was a place to break away from the school paper office, which, in tribute to our favorite TV show at the time, we dubbed “The Swamp.”
I wish I had a detailed journal from this time because it was so fertile and active. What was I really thinking and feeling in my second year of life at community college? Perhaps the only clue lay in a pocket calendar note for Oct. 1, 1980:
“When we are feeling heartfelt pain, or heartfelt joy—then we are true, real; other times we are dangerous.”
On Thursday, Oct. 9, I made one last note to A Treatise on Segmentation:
“Segmentation is riding in a car, gazing out the window at a forest. Affinity is standing in the forest. Creation is being the forest.”