It’s 3:48 AM right now. I woke up amidst a violent thunderstorm to watch tutorials on TensorFlow. It’s really interesting how modernity has created products where you can develop an expertise in neural nets without entirely understanding the mathematics behind statistical learning.
I took a melatonin pill about an hour ago, but it doesn’t seem to be working. So, here I am, writing, when I am supposed to be sleeping.
Occasionally, I am graced with a bright wall of lightning. For people who are experiencing particular turbulent times in their lives, I’d imagine that they would derive some sort of symbolic catharsis from this storm. I would make sense really; given the human propensity to assign meaning to particular instances of pain, storms offer quite a compelling symbol of uncertainty and intensity.
I am having a moment that is reminiscent Nikolai viewing the thunderstorm in Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth trilogy. When I read the scene for the first time, I viewed the thunderstorm as a symbol for the experience of adolescence, particularly at its emotional parallels to a boy approaching puberty. Although I am well past puberty at this point (although, the other day, someone did ask me if I was 18), I think there is still value in deriving meaning from symbols that do not necessarily apply to me anymore.
This thunderstorm is quite particular because I feel quite sheltered from it. I am inside (and therefore, by definition sheltered), but I feel more than sheltered in the sense that I no longer identify with the thunderstorm. That is a past life, and this is my present life. I would use to stare longingly into the thunderstorm because I would feel some sort of solidarity from it that I would not have been able to feel from other aspects of my life. I have often understood college as a period of collective turbulence. But, for some reason, I never seemed to gather that my friends felt the same intense emotional frenzies that I would go.
Is that an immature attitude to have? At this point, I would say yes. I think feeling things strongly, in general, is a mark of immaturity. There’s something distinctly adult I would say about being able to control your own emotions.
But perhaps I am also propagating a patriarchal notion of emotional capitalism as outlined in Cold Intimacies by Eva Illouz. Since I am a guy, this is something I probably overlook because a lot of what I consider to be masculine norms probably coincide with societal privileging of masculine identity. But, on the other hand, I take issue with this critique of masculinity because it assumes that the association between masculinity and coldness is a product of patriarchal indoctrination whereas I align more with the view that this is a bottom-up creation of society itself.
There is much literature on the fear of womanly passions in much of early modern British literature. When I was studying abroad, my professor in my Shakespeare class referenced Measure for Measure to highlight the contradictory nature of criticizing a woman of succumbing to her passions while simultaneously being coerced into sex through holding her family hostage. The fear of being cuckholded was the driving instinct in the plot of Othello. I would imagine there are far more examples if I wasn’t sleepy. But that was a popular norm to explain love at the time: a man’s coolness to tame a woman’s passion.
Given society’s tendency of privileging male identity, that eventually translates to the privileging of being “cold” regardless of whether that is actually representative of male identity or not.
My girlfriend once asked me how I would describe myself in one word, and I jokingly replied: cold. I don’ t think I’m a cold person, but I think there’s a lot about my past experiences that have conditioned me to be a cold person. I think, in general, there’s a lot about modernity itself that conditions everyone to be a cold person. It’s just a product of the internet age we live in, but I think the effect is especially pronounced in a culture that utilizes historical norms and also assumes that men are cold.
I don’t feel strongly anymore. I don’t identify with the thunderstorm anymore because I feel like I have fully moved on from that period in my life. But I think I have also moved on from that period in my life where I try to be a cold person. There is also something aesthetically wrong, to me, about wanting to be a cold person when feelings are one of the most distinct parts of being human.
There is something also about the thunderstorm that is reminiscent of external forces attempting to conquer the internal. No matter what is going on outside, I am in my bedroom, with my window cracked slightly open, so I am still aware of what is going outside without being affected by the forces of external influence. I have faith in the house that I am in, and I am acting in a way I feel true to this room I am occupying.
A typical response to the turbulence of late adolescence is the coldness of young adulthood. That notion, I feel, explains much of what romance is in the internet age. But, from where I stand now, it feels that true maturity is being able to reconcile both intense passion and cold indifference. Both are necessary, to a certain extent, as long as one is not completely privileged over the other.