david heti - thoughts

David Heti - thoughts

Listen to your heart

Law school was a many-splendoured thing sort of, filled with misunderstanding, poor communication and then possibly some ill will too, but who knows. As one who would normally prefer just to sit at home and alone in simple solitude, I decided that the best way to ensure some sort of an integration into Faculty life would be to run for first-year class president. It would force things.

Below is my campaign poster from the election and an email that I wrote to a friend sometime after the poster was put up. I did not win the election. 

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Although the blind external world in which we find ourselves does not immediately disclose the reason and meaning we most fundamentally seek, and constitutes the incontestable conditions within which we must live, there is still a place for human endeavour, on an expressly human scale.

While to say that there are no unities or truths is itself a simple assertion, it might be fair to acknowledge that existence is ambiguous. But it is by way of an engaging with the very limits of an imperfect knowledge and finite life that we can exalt this very existence, by keeping it alive, and not—in bad faith—evading it.

In this absolute, indefinite movement, the highest good can be only the movement itself, which—as its ownmost form and content—is both self-generative and sustaining. It is an open way-of-being, with this very way-of-being as its subject. And what else is being won by this ceaseless revolt, if you will, save for the perpetual re-winning of meaning for-man and its very possibility?

While what one chooses—according to the dictates of one’s simple personal sentiment—may by all means be different for each, how one chooses speaks to a shared humanity and appreciation thereof*.

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I hope to have the opportunity to represent our class with the unaffected honesty, openness and good will that I like to believe I try to live according to quite regularly.

As well, the other candidates rape lots of babies.

Thank you for your time.

David Heti

 

 

*While this appreciation too is grounded ultimately in personal sentiment, the implication is that without such an appreciation, one is outside the shared humanity.

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So that was the poster.

After putting up my three posters at around 11:45 this past Thursday, the first day of the election, I left the law building on an errand for about 45 minutes. When I returned, someone told me that my posters weren't taped very well and that they kept falling down and that people kept re-taping them. So I went around and I reinforced them.

Then, at 4:00, when all the first-year classes had ended, I walked by the area where I'd put up one of my posters and it was nowhere to be seen. I figured, it probably fell down again and the janitor probably took it away, or someone put it by my locker, etc. But, then, I walked by the second and third poster locations, and those posters were nowhere to be seen either.

I went into the atrium, where, on Thursdays from 4:00 to 7:00, the entire Faculty has coffee house, where we drink, eat, talk, etc. I spotted one of the other candidates—R.—and asked her if she knew what had happened to my posters. She immediately replied, I didn't ask them to be taken down. At the time, I didn't think it was a strange thing to say.

I wasn't clear on who exactly had taken them down (the admin, the student council, etc.), and all I’d heard was that some had found my poster offensive. I was a little upset by the whole thing, but also kind of excited, and I decided that I'd just enjoy the coffee house, and figure things out later.

Later that night, at the Ritz-Carlton, where a bunch of us were taking advantage of a firm's offer of free drinks and food, one of my good friends, G., told me that he’d heard that R. was the one who’d gotten my posters taken down. As well, later on he would tell me that when R. had asked him who he was going to vote for, he’d said, David, and then she asked, why, because he's your friend? Because you know what the Greeks say: a man who votes for his friend is an enemy of the state.

Later that night, I received an email by some member of student council, which said, I had to take down your posters because of the remark regarding the other candidates....A notice will be posted at the voting booth regarding the violation of the campaign rule. This was not in good faith.

When I emailed her back, asking her to elaborate on how exactly my poster had not [been] in good faith and which campaign rule I’d violated, she wrote back,

Attacking the other candidates with false and criminal remarks must be considered bad faith. There is no need to make negative comments about the other candidates, simply run your campaign and emphasize what would make you a good class president. It is not in good faith to make the other candidates look bad. Also, remember, should you win a position, you will not be the sole class president. You will have to work together with one of the people that you attacked.

Now, by late Thursday night, it was clear that many people in my class had heard something about posters being taken down and that I'd said something about raping babies, but nobody really had a clear idea of what had happened. People really wanted to hear what the offending line was. And this bothered me for two reasons. For one, to hear and consider the offending line alone is to take it in abstraction from the entire text, thereby distort its meaning; second, even if people did want to go back and read the entire poster, there’s no way that they’d be able to experience the line (and the poster in its entirety) the way that it was intended, as a part of what it is, lies in its unexpectedness.

Because of the very limited campaign rights, the only way that I really had of addressing the issue was to get permission from a prof, to address the class about the election, for a maximum of thirty seconds. The prof told me that she was extremely behind in the course and could only give me ten seconds, so I took it. I started talking quite quickly, about how there was some talk about an offending line in my poster and how I think that to judge what I wrote by that one sentence only, in isolation from the rest, is an inaccurate representation of what happened. I started to go into how the fact how that even once they hear of that line first they can never really read the poster as it was intended, but then the professor interrupted me, and said she that it didn't sound like I was really addressing the election, and basically told me to stop. So, I stopped.

Then I sent an email to the prof thanking her for giving me permission to speak, and also to clarify any potential misunderstanding, by saying that I had, in fact, addressed only the election. She emailed me back saying that she hoped she hadn't made me look bad, but that she didn't think it was appropriate to take class time away in order to clarify a miscommunication.

I really had no idea how I came off in that class, but today a girl whom I'd never even talked to before said that she’d felt bad for me. So that's pretty good.

As well, today I talked to the two students on some council who basically decided to take down my posters. What I really take issue with is that a) they're construing my poster as an attack on the other candidates and that b) they're accusing me of acting in bad faith.

The only campaign rule we were told about the posters was that before putting them up, we had to get them okayed by some office. And before I'd even made my posters, I went up to that office with my laptop and asked them to read what I was planning to put on my poster. I wanted to get it approved before going to all the trouble of actually putting it together. I asked the guy *three times* if he wanted to read what I'd written and he said no, it would be fine. So I made the posters and then returned to the office, to get them stamped. And even though a different person was behind the desk, she simply commented that she liked my photo and then stamped them.

I told this story to the student who took down the posters and told her that I don't see how I should get in trouble by some association, for passing my poster through the sole channel of authorization which they had required. It seems to be a systemic problem of theirs; not a problem with whatever content my poster may have had (even though my poster was not a genuine attack anyway).

This girl told me that I should choose my battles and so I choose to fight the quite personal and well-publicized accusations that I acted in bad faith and made negative comments about others.

(Incidentally, another candidate has been found in violation of the campaign rules as well, for wearing a shirt that had her name written on it. And, that girl R. did something which I imagine is clearly not allowed. On the blackboard of a lecture hall in which every single person in first year sat for an hour and a half, she wrote Vote R. The funny thing is, as far as I know, I'm the only one who's recognized that as a violation.)

So, that's the story up to now. Can you believe the idiocy? As well, what do you think I ought to do about R.’s breaking of the rules? I don't want to be a rat and get her a stupid citation, but I do want to raise the fact later on. But, if I lose the election, it might seem as though I'm just being a sore loser.

I just want to say one last thing. Immediately after putting up the posters, I'd felt kind of sick, and wanted to tear them down. I felt as though what I'd written had been really honest and revealing, and the idea of showing myself to others in such a public way, for something as stupid as student politics, and so soon after having met them, would somehow ruin any real relationship-forming I would otherwise have. And then, after all that worry, it turns out that the only thing a lot of people saw—and will remember—is some sentence that includes the words rape and babies, which they don't even understand. I find that really bizarre.

Although maybe, in a way, that still really is a significant and meaningful interaction with others, and it's only sped up the process of finding out whom I'd have some connection with. I actually do believe that. I mean, after all, *I did do that*, and that is, therefore, of me. After all, it certainly is developing into a situation that's not unfamiliar. And isn't that kind of beautiful? I mean, here I am, entering into what I thought would be a realm in which I'd end up putting on a show, but what it's turning out to be is a new sort of manifesting of my way, and not a sacrificing of it.