Being an RA for Reading Bernard Williams

Over 10 years ago, I was a Research Assistant at the University of North Florida. The task I was assigned was to help with the book Reading Bernard Williams. At the time, I was slowly developing a mental illness. Reading Bernard Williams was the last project I was able to complete in academic philosophy. Not long after its completion, I suffered my first psychotic episode. That was the beginning of a decade of struggles with schizophrenia.

I come from a working class background. I grew up in a small town in Texas. None of my teachers, growing up, really expected much of me. I was shy and awkward. I had so much anxiety I barely ate.

At the University of North Florida, I was exposed to many things and was given tons of opprotunities. I was stunned that I got to work on a book about a brilliant philosopher and help edit a few essays by other brilliant philosophers. It was beyond my comprehension.

While working on the book, my anxiety got to me. I read and re-read the select essays I was assigned to go over. Each stroke of my keyboard was filled with so much perfectionism that I felt tense in my hands, fingers and entire body. I wanted to do a good job.

I was overwhelmed with perfectionism. Eventually, it would over take me. Soon, I would be paralyzed with it. I would end up in a psychiatric hospital.

But not before I finished working on that book.

Dr. Daniel Callcut is the editor of Reading Bernard Williams. I had taken several of his classes. He trusted me to work on some of the essays for the book. I had read the likes of Martha Nussbaum for several years. I admired her. I never thought I would get to edit one of her essays.

But that’s exactly what I did. I copy edited the essay “The Women of Trachis” by Nussbaum, carefully going over each and every footnote. I handled my work with care. Possibly too much care. I was, after all, slowly going insane.

After the book was published, Dr. Callcut sent me a copy with an inscription on the title page. I removed that page and framed it. For the next decade, I kept that framed page in my bedroom on top of my dresser. On days that I felt like a loser, which came to be quite often, I would look at it and remember that I had a history of accomplishments.

If you happen to purchase Reading Bernard Williams, now you will know some of the toil that went into it. You will know what it meant for me to work on it. You will know what it meant to me as a young person who grew up in rural Texas. Working on the book didn’t drive me insane. Nothing I did in philosophy drove me insane. I have come to recognize that I have a brain disorder and am sensitive to stress. I try to manage my care properly. There have been times–in the psych unit or walking the streets barefoot during an episode of psychosis–when I may have seemed like all was lost for me all my life. I may no longer acutally be in academic philosophy anymore, but there was a time when I truly rocked. There was a time when I did excellent work on all accounts. When you read Reading Bernard Williams, you are taking in a piece of that time; the time when I did something great.

You never know that editorial history of a book until you look deeper. And you never know the wonderful things that can come from the disheveled people walking the streets.

Writing is Work: The Making of “Heist”

I have written my first short story due out on Amazon Kindle very soon. It is based on a dream I had. But, let me tell you, writing is work.

You might think that because my story was based on a dream that it would be easy to write.

It wasn’t.

My mind was encompassed for a week with thoughts. Often, I sat down and didn’t know what to write.

It was painful to write. Sure, it was also fun, but it took enormous effort to sit down and get it done.

Next time you read a work, whether its short or long, fiction or nonfiction, be aware of the pains the author went through to get ideas on the page.

I have always dreamed of being a writer. It was my dream as a child. I have always had respect for authors. But, with Heist, I have a new-found appreciation for the craft.

All Apologies

Over the past 10 years, I have had 11 or 12 episodes of psychosis. When I have a psychotic episode, I lose touch with reality and lack self knowledge. I am completely unaware that I am ill.

I have never been dangerous during an episode of psychosis (thankfully), but I have done odd and unusual things. Embarrassing things. Dangerous things, like walking barefoot in risky neighborhoods.

There are several people who have tossed me aside due to things I have said and done while suffering from psychosis. This blog post is for them. It’s an apology–even though an apology may be unwarranted.

For quite some time, I have thought that people who cast me out of their lives due to something I said during psychosis were discriminating against me. After all, the stigma of schizophrenia is often worse than the illness itself.

That may be true. Those people may lack awareness and understanding. They don’t get to see me when I’m with my doctors. They don’t know my mental health status. They don’t know what I will do next.

All these things have made people cast me aside.

Sitting here now, with over one year of recovery under my belt, made me wonder how I should respond to people who have shunned me due to my psychosis.

I’m not too needy right now. It’s not that I have a deep-seated need to have these people in my life. But, despite my having been truly and legally insane and thus not responsible for my actions, I am offering an apology.

I went to counseling for approximately two years. My counselor told me to tell people who have witnessed me psychotic that it’s not me, it’s my illness.

In a very real way, that’s true. Anyone close to me knows that I really am not myself when I am sick. I have tried several different treatments over the years and I think I finally found a medication that works. Right now, I am the healthiest I have been in 10 years.

Still, even if it really wasn’t me who said and did those things and I truly cannot be held responsible for them, they nevertheless happened. I don’t recall everything I have done, but I am sure my unwell self has made people embarrassed, uncomfortable and offended.

It wasn’t me who did it. Yet, it happened. And, since there is no one else to offer an apology for these things, I am writing this blog post to apologize to anyone disturbed by my unwell behavior.

I have tried for 10 years to bring my symptoms under control. I may have finally succeeded. If you accept my hand in friendship, just know I am doing the best I can.

On My Switch from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden

Politicians are strange creatures. We should treat them as such. The philosopher Immanuel Kant famously said not to treat people as “mere means.” I contest that’s almost exactly how we should treat politicians: What can they do for us?

Which brings me to my switch from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden. I switched because Sanders dropped out of the race and congratulated Biden on the win.

There’s tons of information swirling around about Biden. He sniffs little girls’ hair. A may have even sexually assaulted someone. The reasoning goes, then: How is he Better than Trump?

We can look at several things when we look at a politician. We can look at character. And we can look at policy. I tend toward the latter. I ask what a politician going to actually do for me and those I care about.

When I do the math for myself, I find that Biden is much better than Trump. Sure, he’s not as liberal as I’d like. My life probably won’t change that much under Biden. But it also won’t be remarkably worse, as it would be under Trump.

Donald Trump is a wannabe dictator. He’s wholly incompetent. Lately, during the coronavirus pandemic, he has blundered his way through all while congratulating himself. He wants to cut food stamps, if he hasn’t already. He wants to cut Social Security. He wants to make it harder to get disability. He has a long ax to grind against certain immigrants. In short, he wants to make my life and the lives of those I love worse. And he wants to do it while consolidating power for himself.

I’m not in love with Joe Biden. I think it’s possible he has done some of the things he is accused of. But, when it comes down to it, he is better than Trump. And that, my friends, gets my vote.