“Such is the joy and burden of being human – we will never be free individuals freely entering into contracts.”, Adam Kotsko, Awkwardness, p. 87, zero books, 2010.

After two to three weeks of doing what I am critical of in others, I’m too lazy to look something up so I just quote from what I happen to be reading. I am not convinced awkwardness is a concept that is very central to humanity. I am sure on the other hand that it is one of many exquisitely exclusively human concepts.  Studying it authentically cannot but lead to something insightful. Such as the above quote and the below question:

 What is most awkward: to belong or not to belong?

Even outsiders are on the inside of something. They are the only true insiders on the notion of not belonging. Most of this part of the internet is populated by outsiders. Most of this part of the internet is only different from a high school playground in that the rules according to which one must play are those of the outsiders. There is, if you will, a certain obligation to awkwardness because only outsiders are only really at home in awkwardness. Only outsiders feel at home in hunting down contradictions like the one in this present paragraph because only outsiders are forced to the edges of the playing field where new rules have to be discovered; new rules by which those who don’t belong can start to belong to something.

Outsiders are explorers. Insiders are industrious. The average low returns of outsiders are compensated by insiders who consolidate moderate returns. The point of it is that once in a while an outsider brings back a potato such that the moderate returns increase and can support more outsiders at an average return that is even lower than before. This is how the world spins: many need to belong in order to be able to support an ever-increasing number of people who don’t belong. In the spirit of the vanishing returns of progressive insight one could imagine a future where everybody’s belonging to something universal & anybody has the luxury of not feeling compelled to belong to an absolute. Kotsko, by the way, is right on the latter: that future is now. In the spirit of contradiction one could say that this kind of now is only existing by grace of it being seen as a future.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. That’s all right: I didn’t particularly want to go anywhere anyway. What I know is that the above is at least half wrong. Not belonging isn’t privileged with respect to belonging. Belonging is as awkward as not belonging because after all one wants to be free, one wants to choose, one wants to have the idea that one wears what one wears because one has decided that this  is what one wants to wear (or, in a minor variant, what one realizes one ought to wear). Belonging is awkward as is evident from all those that stand apart because they are so loud in their profession of the need to belong to this or that.

Obviously there are no absolute insiders or outsiders. Radical awkwardness is just being normal. It is one aspect of the sorry but joyous state of being human i.e. not quite an automaton. Radical is the norm. Everybody is a radical. To be a human being is to be radical. Awkwardness is just one of many ways in which being radical manifests itself; only one in many ways in which humanity is seen to continuously grow, and still be at each time perfectly fine in the knowledge it’s growing, and cannot but grow …

… Am I kidding myself? It’s at least a distinct possibility. I would hate that the few are right in condemning the many.

[Before and whilst writing this I was listening to: ‘Codex Speciálník’ by The Hilliard Ensemble, ECM New Series.]


2 responses to “Awkwardness

  1. Aljas de Paljas

    Hey, just don´t say you are lazy when you are actually reading books. There are far more cases that don´t even get to read books, so keep being lazy and providing us with your insights.

  2. You’re too kind, Aljas! Let me take advantage of that: please help me to attract visitors over here. There is such a thing as being too lazy, you know.

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