Friday, April 29, 2005

Push/Pull Factors

To further refine my thesis question: "According to IJ, How do we get past the loneliness of our addictions and connect to other people?"

So, reading the text with this specific question in mind (and I'm only on page 140 so we'll see what happens), it seems like thus far DFW's presented two (not necessarily mutually exclusive) alternatives:

1. On page 111, right after everyone's just spent like an hour sitting in the locker room and complaining about how difficult/tiring the tennis life is. Hal's talking with his Big Buddy group, and Kent Blott asks him what the point of it all is, if everyone at the ETA is so miserable. And Hal says "The point is it's ritualistic. The bitching and moaning. Even assuming they feel the way they say when they get together, the point is notice we were all sitting there all feeling the same way together."

So the fact that everybody is lonely and alienated conversely gives us something to share and a level to connect on. Maybe Wallace is saying we should just continue being lonely and trying/pretending to connect (just like the people in AA just go through the motions and say the cliches even if they don't believe in them), and through this we one day actually will.

2. On pages 127-128 we first get introduced to Lyle, who, along with Mario and Don Gately, seems like one of the only people in IJ that isn't debilitatingly addicted in some form or another. Near the end there's his saying of "And the Lord said: Let not the weight thou wouldst pull to thyself exceed thine own weight." And a kid that ignores him and piles on the weight "finds himself rising toward what he wants to pull down to himself." I think it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to connect this to the idea of an addiction - when you're addicted, you keep trying to get more and more of what you're addicted to until you've gotten too much and it pulls you in/controls you.
But here's the key: When this happens, Lyle doesn't smirk or laugh or shake his head sagely. He just sits and waits, supremely indifferent, "able to sit quietly and pull life toward [him]."

So the two are definitely connected. They're both passive ways of dealing - just sit and be patient and do what you can. And my mentor for my paper is this crazy man who knows everything, and he drew some really interesting parallels between what DFW seems to be saying and Buddhism. There's the idea that Gately, Mario, and Lyle are able to be so passive because they've been "enlightened," but at what price? Gately I'm not sure about, but both Mario and Lyle are even more alienated from others than say Hal or Orin, perhaps because they lack that inner loneliness that allows people to connect. So is reaching inner peace more important than reaching out to others?

Maybe Gately is the key because he's been through hell and back, while Mario and Lyle haven't.

(this and subsequent posts are all made with the help of significant input from Scott.)