Practicing Etiquette, Issue I.VIII
Robert Hayes Kee,
Department of Polite Aesthetic Praxis

I am pleased to write to you once again, dear readers. The academic year has shot out of its gate and has hit full stride in this straightaway time. My own commitments to the university are greater than most previous semesters and have required a careful and correct partitioning of my time. I, of course, place priority upon this address to you, dear readers, as is the responsibility of one given the privilege of public address. Using my own creative praxis as a light, I hope to enlighten a path for your own distinctly non-dialectical balance.

I missed the party of an occasional interlocutor, dedicated to their impending remotion. I did not even répondez s'il vous plait. We were not partners in a creative praxis, but enjoyed our common time and casually admired each other’s praxes. What can be done to amend for my botchery?

Etiquette exists as guide for, as humans, we will inevitably aggrieve one another. It is a pestilential society that demands perfection. Quittance for one’s corrigendum must be sought and given freely; this exculpation is very much part of the rhizomatic flow of human energy, and etiquette is the acknowledgement of one’s inexorable origin in this flow.

We are always moving forward in the face of death as mortals, and thus occasions stand as markers of a moment in time as we progress toward union with our one true possession. This progress should not be a solemn march. Indeed, to live well, one must turn this walk into a spirited jaunt. Moving thus, we mark our most important steps with occasions and gatherings, and the move from one locality to another is a time-honored, respectable one on which to hold court. Our friends seek our adulation, and most are only comfortable offering theirs in ejaculatory bursts on such occasions. Blandiloquence is typically the mot juste of praise, but on these occasions our interlocutors frequently seek a moi juste. The correctness of conforming with this expectation varies with each call to do so.

Your regret implies that you desired this heightened flow of soul. The power of occasion to call for a society of heightened joviality is a formidable one. The power of words to stick with us, like small items in the bottom of knapsack, cannot be paralleled. Your friend asked you to help them pack for a trek on an occasion that would allow for effusive outpouring. To do so now is not too late, but requires that one produce one’s own ecstatic state. What you owe your friend is a gregarious and effusive outpouring of adulation. You must now produce and record this adulation for your interlocutor. Communicate the diminution of jouissance in your social body with a literal demonstration. I suggest mailing a dispensable appendage, but an indispensable one does show a greater level of affection.

I am a creative practitioner. While my work largely edifies my interlocutors and myself, I have thus far failed to achieve higher recognition. I am upset that I was excluded from a recent honoration. Is it incorrect to feel this way? Am I neglecting the efforts of others with personal vanity?

Nietzsche calls for us to be untimely. To be Übermenchen, we must abandon hope for timely recognition. Just as we reach backwards in the conversation across centuries, stepping into Heraclitus’ river with one foot, we must also step forward with the other, straddling the present. Given such lofty dictates, it seems that the only possible advice would be to ignore awards of any kind and to focus solely on one’s own work.

This however, is poor consolation for the daily bruises of obscurity and a lack of acclamation; haughtiness can fuel a journey for only so long. We cannot deny our being-in-the-world, and that world congratulates and honors the esthetic praxis of many humans. As I described above, the desire for adulation is not a shameful one, and the desire for a broad conviviality will lead to a desire for public address. The chief benefit of an award is not the statue or the prize, but its ability to offer one a more patulous platform of public address. Make this platform for yourself, reader. Recognize the value in atypical forms of public address. Take Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò as a model and take a branch as your platform; shout your desired message from treetops, dear reader.

I have entered into a relationship with an imbalance of affection. My interlocutor esteems me more greatly than I can return in affection. Am I obligated to terminate this affair before this chasm becomes chiasmic?

The chiasmus is an operative metaphor for your situation, dear reader. This structure often governs texts meant for religious dedication, and you appear to wish to avoid commitment beyond the bounds necessary for an assignation. You tiptoe, reader, through an affair in which your interlocutor is dancing. You are on antiparallel trajectories, a tryst without a twain.

I rarely wish to pursue a Heideggarian journey through linguistic association, but we find one of value at our feet. The tryst is, etymologically, working against you. The word comes to us from an early Indo-European verb meaning to ‘be solid.’ From there it travels through early German to Norse to middle English, all the while promoting the solidity you seek to avoid.

Politeness dictates that one frequently avoids imposing our constraints upon our interlocutors, even when we desire to pursue an enduring, creative praxis in that interlocutor’s society. Your paramour’s politeness created this crossroad, and yours must end it. Follow your instinct for growing separation. Continue it by abandoning your current residence and take up life abroad. Use this opportunity to truly commit to learning another tongue.

An acquaintance for whom I have only passing fondness is seeking a greater portion of my attention than the modicum I care to allot to them. What are my obligations to this human when I wish to offer no more than the barest politeness?

In most situations with an imbalance of desires, a genuine balance will not be struck. It is judicious to accept this imbalance of forces before it becomes an unbalancing force of its own. Our time before death is carved from us like the breast meat of a holiday’s capon, it is much too precious to sacrifice extendedly on acts of bare politeness. Do not continue in this vein.

What you truly seek is to alert this interlocutor to their place in your social hierarchy. To speak this directly would be a grievous faux pas. Implication must be your tool; use it to slowly correct your interlocutor’s misapprehension. A series of excuses will be needed to avoid prolonged interaction. Never honor any plans for comingling and produce a drastic surcease for all your casual conversations. These avoidances will take on an escalating absurdity. Embrace this absurdity and use it to build a dinghy of splendid isolation with which you can sail away from this sciolist.

I am prone to commit to many events, but do not truly wish to live a gay, prismatic life. I wish to be free from the obligations to my interlocutors and left alone with my Kierkegaard. How do I cancel politely on these impending commitments without taking my fear and trembling out on the town?

Few images strike me as more romantic than de vie de la bibliothèque. A clime suitable to year-round tweed, professionally-attended tea kettles, and a pipe ashtray speak to a manner of living that undoubtedly prioritizes one’s voice in the conversation across centuries well above frivolities. One is validated by that late-life hallucinator, and one feels the mountain air in one’s lungs.

I do not wish to deny this life to those called by it. Obsession is the only source of contentment, and we should not add to the ranks of the counterparts of Freud’s civilization, and much less strive to do so. Yet it is rare that one is truly most comfortable speaking from the page. Conviviality pleases a majority that we should not be ashamed to inhabit.

One expects the answer of balance, of the dialectic, to be ordered to combine one’s interests like the diner at a buffet. I do not do so here. One cannot deny that it is much more proficuous for one’s written praxis to ingurgitate philosophie dans la bibliothèque than philosophie dans le boudoir (with a few notable exceptions).

It is far enough into the academic year that one will be able to enumerate half a dozen truly delightful footnotes from one’s current reading, and will treat each of them like an aphorism von Gut und Böse. Such company has an appeal beyond what one can reasonably expect from our mundane interlocutors. If we wish to walk like Death Bredon amongst incunabula, we must learn the path.

Yet, we cannot shun ourselves in the Kantian manner. We must commit to convivial living fully when it is time. A brusque and boorish writer (one I would not normally recommend as an advisor) once remarked that following through on one’s commitments made in a reverie will teach one to abstain from jactitation. It seems a trial by firewater might be best for you too, reader. There is an exuberance in your sociality that should not be repressed, even if it causes you later displeasure. Do not cancel any of these commitments. Honor each one like an oath worthy of the Horatii.

We often desire to live two lives, one of quiet reflection and another of vigorous concourse, without committing to either one wholly. This split in your instincts should be trusted and perpetuated. Do not reconcile yourself as if one is to breath through alternating sides of a Janus mask. Nietzsche speaks of embracing the coin flip. Be like that coin: xwholly committed to one side. Recognize that one is jostled through life like that coin, flipped and reflipped. Embrace the disparity between these sides, dear reader. The coin is not like Janus, it has only one face, and that face is, at all times, yours.