Rustin Cohle, Hypocrisy, and the Meaning of Life

The-Meaning-of-Life-monty-pythonIf you are not a philosopher, when you think of philosophy, one of the first questions that pops into your head is, “What is the meaning of life?”

Were you to ask this question to a professional philosopher, they’d probably scoff, because answering such questions isn’t really what professional philosophers do. (Professional philosophers mostly argue among themselves at conferences and across publications about linguistic and conceptual distinctions and interpretations they’ve drawn. Sometimes this can be interesting to people outside the conversation, but usually it isn’t. [Sorry, but, well, it isn’t and that’s okay.])

I don’t know why other philosophers got into the study of philosophy, because for me it was exactly questions of meaning that drew me in. Even though these questions have become philosophical clichés, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. The question of “What is true?” genuinely haunts me on a daily basis, and as much of a devoted Foucaultian[1] as I am and as swayed by Wittgenstein as I am, I still naively believe there’s a satisfactory answer to this question that has nothing to do with an episteme or a socio-historical cultural context or a game.

Of course, I’m also convinced the answer to this question can never be articulated or argued for — once you reach true understanding, I imagine you don’t feel compelled to write a tell-all.

The meaning of life is a question that still baffles me, too, because, like I want there to be truth, I want there to be answer where I also know there isn’t and can’t be one.

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When "Reality" Gets Real

My Problem with “reality” television is that most shows seem to lack “self”-awareness.

What do I mean?

“Time Out!”

Some of my favorite sit-coms growing up were those in which the characters occasionally made reference to the fact that they were on a television show. Sometimes on the Fresh Prince, Will Smith would talk to the camera. Sometimes Zack Morris would stop time on Saved by the Bell. I appreciate the subtle acknowledgment made by a television show or a movie that it knows it’s being made for entertainment, because there’s nothing worse than something ridiculous (which the entertainment industry is) taking itself too seriously.

I never watched The Real World, but I have read Chuck Klosterman. He once wrote an essay[1] in which he discussed the fact that during Season 3, Puck was acutely aware that he was on a television show where everyone else pretended that the cameras weren’t there. The producers didn’t like it, which is unfortunate, albeit expected, because the only thing real about The Real World is the cameras.

I know the point of “reality” shows is to fuel our voyeuristic tendencies. But, to pretend that locking people in a house or deserting them on an island and making them play ridiculous games in order to win cash prizes is “real”? Well, it doesn’t fool me. The people who go on these shows want to be famous. They are caricatures, not authentically acting individuals.

Reality competition/game shows are almost worse, because they feed the delusion that being famous or recognizable is important. No one really goes on the Bachelor to find true love. Shows that require actual talent are a bit more tolerable, but you still get the feeling that the contestants were chosen based on looks and persona and not their talent.

“You are a powerful and attractive man.”

One of the only “reality” shows I enjoy is Gene Simmons Family Jewels, because it doesn’t try to be completely real. I have no doubt that the personalities displayed by the Simmons’ family are real, but the situations are sometimes contrived.

I like that.

I don’t like feeling duped.

Anyway, I don’t need to watch “reality,” I live it.


[1] “What Happens When People Stop Being Polite” in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, (pp.26-40).