Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

In General

All generalizations are either false or tautologous.

The goal of science is to create new generalizations.

The goal of philosophy is to demonstrate that said generalizations are either false or tautologous.


Perhaps Yours Are Not the Eyes for These Posts

When you read these posts, you may say to yourself, “What the hell is this stuff? What’s he getting at? How can anyone take this seriously?”

These posts may be meaningless, absurd, and frivolous to you.

But maybe I’m not talking to you.

Think about a time you heard a song that you found horrible, or a movie that was ridiculously sentimental or preposterously plotted.

Maybe it just wasn’t meant for you.

As writers, it behooves us to think clearly about our audience. For whom are we writing?

As readers, it behooves us to think about ourselves and, when confronted with something that does not speak to us, or even disturbs and insults us, to consider that other possible self for whom it would be soothing, inspiring or enjoyable.

Enlightenment lies on the path between this person (this person, right here) and that person.

Addendum: On Twitter I follow a number of people with whom I disagree. Every time they post something appalling, I think about unfollowing them. I don’t, because I don’t want to close the door on the otherness they embody; I don’t want to live in world that is merely a painstakingly constructed reflection of myself, my biases, and my dreams.

You Live in a World Without You

Jerry Garcia once said something like, “You have to remember that we live in a world without a Grateful Dead.”

It’s an interesting perspective. When you are the Grateful Dead, you are known to millions and adored by many. You are an object in the world of your fans and followers.

But in your own world, there is no corresponding object.

The eye that sees cannot see the eye that sees (or something like that).

Whenever you are having a hard time dealing with someone, remember that may themselves have a hard time understanding how their actions, their words, their appearance are perceived. Being inside everything they do, they are unaware of what it looks like from the outside. They live in a world in which they do not exist.

Same goes for you.

Good Enough Is Good Enough, OK?

I heard someone today say, “Nowadays, good enough just isn’t good enough.”

I disagree.

Good enough, by definition, is good enough. If it weren’t good enough, then it wouldn’t be.

But behind the statement is a more general cultural consensus that one should never “settle for less” and, instead, strive for the amazing.

“Go big or go home,” they say. (“Go for the gusto or don’t go at all,” they used to say.)

Why? Why do we have to be amazing? Why do our experiences need to be amazing? Our homes? Our cars? Our jobs? Our sex?

It’s as if dissatisfaction, rather than the result of circumstances every now and again, should serve as the desired state.

Whatever happened to appreciating things the way are, in all their unamazingness, and being happy with enough?

If things are bad, we should work to change them. (Or leave them as they are. I’m not here to tell you what to do.)

If things are good enough, shouldn’t that be good enough?

What Is the Meaning of This!

The meaning of an action or event is never immanent to it. Instead, it resides in what happens next.

Of course, the meaning of “what happens next” in turn depends on what happens after that.

As Jonathan Culler apparently said, “Meaning is context-bound, but context is boundless.”

Why We Do the Things We Do

People often do this or that, not because they want to do this or that, but because they want to be the kind of person who does this or that.

Does Intensity Belong in Music?

I came to consider the question posed in the title of this post after seeing Tinariwen on a Friday night and then, three days later, Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan.

The second concert was undeniably “intense.”

Dillinger Escape Plan play a frenetic brand of mathcore—the demonic love-child of hardcore and metal (particularly of the “technical death” variety). From the second they started playing, they were in constant motion, careening around the stage, jumping off everything. The singer taunted the audience by implying that they were not as extreme as the crowd in NYC, but eventually dove into the mayhem. Their performance frequently made me cackle in glee, on account of its ridiculous extremity. My friend Emmanuel said, “This band makes me feel like I’m 80 years old.”

Mastodon, the headliners, were thunderous and epic. Heavier than Dillinger, they were less dynamic, their klangwelt less varied, but they were also undeniably the crowd’s favorites. Propelled by a poly-limbed drummer and an impressive collection of riffs, their set bludgeoned and exhausted me, ending with the anthemic “Creature Lives,” the stage filled with people, every voice joined in a kind of viking chorus. I felt transported (at least for a moment).

Born of volume, velocity, and insistent, concussive rhythms, the intensity of this concert was something I had to physically endure.

The first concert of the weekend featured, as I mentioned already, Tinariwen. Made up of Taureg tribesmen adorned in colorful desert robes, Tinariwen plays a trance-y, guitar-driven, North African folk blues. They sing in Temashek, their lyrics a mixture of politics (the Tuaregs have long been at odds, and even all out war, with the central government of Mali) and Saharan melancholy.

Occupying the opposite end of the intensity spectrum—about as far away from Dillinger as you could get—was Tinariwen’s leader, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who, according to Wikipedia, “at age four witnessed the execution of his father (a Tuareg rebel) during a 1963 uprising” and, as a young man, received military training at the behest of Muammar Ghaddafi.

Standing on stage, Alhabib was taciturn, inscrutable, slowly swinging his guitar back and forth, singing with his mouth barely moving. His was not an intensity that overpowers so much as one that draws everything into itself like a neutron star. The music was hypnotic, weaving a spell. I couldn’t help but move, turning around a distant fire in an endless night, orbiting a source of power that was deep and enduring like the ever-growing desert.

Look, I like the loud version of intensity, but the quiet intensity of Tinariwen meant so much more to me. It wasn’t the intensity of performance and display, it was the intensity of a lived life taking the time to quietly express itself in rhythm and melody. It was a human and even healing intensity.

The intensity of Mastodon and, especially, the Dillinger Escape Plan felt more like an imagined antidote to boredom in the face of our culture’s incessant barrage of superficial stimulus and cheap (even stolen) entertainment, as if they could create, as an aesthetic experience, the intensity that produced Tinariwen.

Unfortunately/fortunately, only real life can do that.