The Freedom of Uselessness

Thinking back on Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts and Chris Kraus, I Love Dick. They are both versions of Nelson’s “autotheory,” using theory as a tool of personal self-interrogation, using others’ reasoning as punctuation, explication, and nuance in one’s own story.

I want very much to fold this beautiful theoretically-infused form of self-representation into my writing. I see now how this is exactly the project I undertook in Before & After, though then I was grappling with scientific understandings of the world rather than theoretical understandings of the person. To a large degree I still am, though I want very much to fold in theory, to fold in, though I am not smart enough to do it, everything.

This is the project I would like to embrace, to embody, in my work: I have only touched the very tip of the iceberg, only even just now broached this possibility to myself. But I see the project as a kind of social-philosophical impulse that I now believe to be nearly impossible for me to enact in the real world, with real people (i.e. in conversation), and must try to develop instead, in a more systematic and attentive way than I have in the past, with ideas and with books.

I appreciate the risk writers take to be honest: I struggle toward this kind of self-revelation. I have avoided making the personal public, and now feeling too old, past the point of lust which would make the revelation thrilling. Yet full of the need to reveal.


I have gone back to being the nobody I was before that brief structure of the program: doing nothing, letting it all slip away. I have not written in a month or more, and the world is hurting. I do almost noting to help. I am truly useless, and keep trying to find the freedom therein, but I feel pretty certain that is a lie I tell myself, a rationalization, to keep from taking responsibility for my own grotesque apathy.

Everything I read reminds me of the importance of some saving work: work is all, second only, if second, to love. Love for me is assumed, but work is the project to be discovered and relentlessly pursued. I am lucky to be able to assume love; I am distraught at the receding mirage of work, and at the uselessness of the work that I pursue.