Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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The Inficratic Oath: first, post no spoilers. Limit your I.J. discussion to only those events that take place on or before the page 981 (100%).



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 Post subject: "Marathe and Steeply on Choice"
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:44 am 
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Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:45 am
Posts: 47
"p105-109 Marathe and Steeply on choice: Which character do you side with? Are you actively choosing? Or just going with your gut reaction? Is it impossible to choose? Double-bind maybe? When I first read IJ I didn’t find the Steeply and Marathe sections particularly compelling.

On the second read they were my focus. It is so easy to sweep the Steeply and Marathe conversations to the side when you want to know more about the entertainment. I think they’re some of the most underrated parts of the book. Read them." - Nick Maniatis - The Howling Fantods Post

I decided to re-read carefully this section and would appreciate hearing what other readers think. I will post my response below.


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 Post subject: Re: "Marathe and Steeply on Choice"
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:00 am 
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In AA the major character flaw worked on is instincts gone awry. By following the instinct to the max, an addict is following that thing they choose to worship/love/attach and it takes them to death unless they quit. (Marathe throwing himself under a train possibly to die/maim - insanity???)

The Marathe/Steeply conversation also makes me think of passion vs. analysis. Both are necessary, but in balance. There’s the word: balance.

But, of course, no one is perfect – at times we sway towards passion and other times towards analysis.

People are different. People lean towards one or the other due to nature and nurture. Can the U.S.A. children be taught how to choose their temple? Yes – but who is to say what the teachers should be teaching. Who is to say what we should worship? There is the political aspect to this. And also the spiritual. And the sexual. Anyone with that kind of power is going to be corrupt. So Steeply proposing that we should be teaching the USA children to be loyal to country and the "bigger" world

DFW does not give the answer. There is no answer. There is only life and what we want out of it. Perhaps the thing we can’t live without is, in fact, life itself. This seems obvious, but, it is not really. What is the experience that we want to have? At each state of our development we are given more information with which to choose.

Another part of IJ talks about the fact that the “game” is about managing fear. Managing your own fear, and possibly, in politics, the political leaders managing our fear to their advantage and not ours. Corruption.

Again, I get the sense that DFW is telling us to think for ourselves. I keep getting this from him. That we cannot be led by others, no matter what leadership role they have been given in our lives; political, emotional, sexual, or spiritual.

So back to the "choice" - using your head or using your heart. Both can be addictions and destructive. To oneself and to others. Are there universal truths to follow? Is there anything to follow? Perhaps. But the real question is, do we choose to act on them? To do them rather than just say them. DFW talks about this somewhere in the book. That it is easy to say and not so easy to do … the thing.

Is this another recursive loop mentioned in another post topic? I seem to be talking in circles.


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 Post subject: Re: "Marathe and Steeply on Choice"
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:13 am 
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Are we supposed to say "+1" when we like a post? Or when we agree? I'm a little lost on the posting lingo but I like this post, however you're supposed say it, ha.


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 Post subject: Re: "Marathe and Steeply on Choice"
PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:38 am 
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I came to the same conclusion about balance: neither Steeply nor Marathe is "right," and DFW doesn't agree with either of them. They take each of their beliefs to an undesirable extreme.

I think Steeply is the representation of the selfish and the completely free, and Marathe is the representation of the self-sacrificing and the unfree. You'll notice that one element of each is desirable ("free," "self-sacrificing") but the other is not ("selfish," "unfree"). Hence there are pros and cons of each of the positions assumed by Steeply and Marathe.

DFW seems to let Marathe lead the conversation most of the time, letting him relentlessly criticize a more quiet Steeply, and this might be because this is the primary criticism that DFW sprinkles throughout IJ. DFW fears the selfish pursuit of happiness borne of complete freedom in the United States. People let their freedom hinge on obsessions: with drugs, with film, with tennis. This is where too much choice is dangerous.

However, criticism of Marathe's views are definitely there, just more subtle. First of all, Marathe is obviously hypocritical, because he is betraying his political group for his wife. DFW almost seems to be indicating that, sure, you can sacrifice yourself to some greater cause; but inevitably something more personal, something closer to you will affect you. And you can choose to ignore it and go on sacrificing for some greater cause, but then are you really living your life? And though you might be helping out with some great impersonal goal, won't you be hurting the people more immediately around you? I'm reminded of the conversation that Schtitt had with Mario: the idea that life is pro-death. So it is, if you're being coaxed by others into jumping in front of trains, into becoming an assassin, or even into sacrificing the whole of your youth and physical health for tennis. These might seem like lofty things to dedicate yourself to, especially compared with the things that the people of Steeply's O.N.A.N. become obsessed with,—entertainment, drugs, the individual pursuit of happiness—but in the end they're just as malicious, only less obviously so. Obsessions clearly make you "undead," sure, but so does complete self-sacrifice, as you mindlessly follow the instructions of others.

So, in the end, some kind of balance is necessary. I don't know whether you can realistically obtain a balance, and maybe that's why you don't see DFW portraying it.* But freedom obviously needs to be restricted in some form without it being completely restricted. The sphere of people immediately around you needs to be considered and communicated with before you think of just yourself or some greater ideal for a large impersonal people.

*I feel like the Ennet House or AA might, later in the story, show itself as some form of a balance.


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