The New Project – “An Intellectual Selfie” (And Why)

The Why

I have been gone from posting for a couple of weeks. This has been primarily the case because of some personal issues that have come up in my life that have put into question some of my more fundamentally held beliefs. While I have moved on from this mental standstill, I have been left amotivated, and the words that normally flow out of my hands have been halted. That is about to change.

When most people focus on Jean Paul Sartre’s works, they tend to look at his earlier works. La Nausee, No Exit, Existentialism is a Humanism, and Being and Nothingness  are characteristic of this phase of his life. We often forget Sartre’s later works, and these are perhaps more interesting examinations of the human condition. Once you have established the philosophical ground on which you are going to walk, you have to do something that is more powerful: You have to prove it. Philosophy is just a bunch of dudes drinking wine in armchairs unless something practical comes out of it. This is what is called praxis. Sartre’s works began to bridge a gap between reality and fiction. His stories became biographies of well-known french writers, and by examining their lives Sartre proved the valuable-ness of the existential project. The last of these works is The Words where Sartre looks at his own life and how it relates to the project he is undertaking.

Even the most absurd internal examinations can bear fruit. We live in a society that loves populism, but hates hedonistic acknowledgement of its very nature. As Emile Durkheim once said, our society has come to represent “the cult of the individual”. We are taught to be authentic, to be “our own person”, and while this leads to great insights, we also have a puritanical sense of self. We cannot really unabashedly embrace ourselves, because modesty is a virtue.

This is why, we hate “selfies”.

Selfies for some have come to embody everything that is wrong with our culture. They are self-absorbed, narcissistic, and self-gratifying. This is the wrong approach to looking at what selfies are. Selfies are in essence a  way of documenting our lives as lived. They show a particular moment, frozen in time, where people are experience life. They are an auto-ethnographic representation of our lives; a photo-diary of how we change. They are a way of expressing what we want the world to see, and to feel about us. Selfies are no more narcissistic than blogging, vlogging, journal writing, or telling your friends and family about your day! Selfies are a way of retaking control of your own person, and choosing what you want to show to the world. They are a political movement of representation, whether we are aware of it or not. That is why movements like the No Makeup Selfie were so popular, and that’s also why they are dangerous. Any social activity with an important message can lose its message when social networking is like a game of broken telephone. We have to be aware of what we are doing, and take responsibility for our lives. Technology is meant to facilitate this process.

Autoethnography (from Wikipedia):  a form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings

The Project – “An Intellectual Selfie”

For the next 30 days, on top of weekly blogging I will be posting a selfie, which includes a description of where I am, what I am doing, and how I am feeling.

Simple right? I promise to take one picture that will act as an autoethnography of the next 30 days of my life. I hope to prove that there is value to Existentialism, as well as value in searching for awe. I will take a picture regardless of how I am feeling, and will try my best to make them as unique as possible. Throughout, I will also be analyzing the effectiveness of this project, and will ask for reader feedback on everything I am doing. Finally, I will encourage others to also take part in this project, by sending in your selfies with anything from a caption about the moment this selfie was taken, to an entire essay on your day. This is a collaborative project, one that I hope will involve multiple people.

One Final Announcement

Part of the failure of my blog has been in my inability to post things on a regular weekly basis. I will now be trying my best to post a blog post every Friday, starting with today.


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