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01. Letter From the Editors
A brief introduction to The Phenomenological Society
Here we are in New York City taking many strange routes to arrive in a shared apartment near Gramercy Park. We connected in April 2021 over a mutual love of Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, Hesse’s Demian, and perhaps most critical, existentialism and phenomenology. After hundreds of hours of Zoom calls and phone calls taking place all around the world a working relationship quickly turned into the deepest of friendships. We spent that year delightfully falling into rabbit holes about Sartre, de Beauvoir, Heidegger, Camus, Kierkegaard, Merleau-Ponty, and a smörgåsbord of other existentialists.
We didn’t meet IRL until the following summer at Caffe Dante off MacDougal in Greenwich Village eating focaccia and drinking dirty martinis. It felt like a first date after a year of talking on the phone. What if we don’t *click* in real life? (A bizarre but human concern…what if the dirty martinis were not the only thing that we thought we’d like more than we did in real life?!?)
But in real life, we didn’t talk much about phenomenology or existentialism. Instead, we talked about all the things we hadn’t had the ability—or rather the desire—to across screens: the personal, the intimate, the delicate, the cringe.
It took sitting in those stools near the window to get present and personal. To go beyond the intellect and into the embodied. Although no doubt we were as insufferable to our neighbors at the bar as the people we so idealize…
Most of us romanticize some golden era—Beatniks in the 50s, Studio 54 in the late 70s, Andy Warhol’s The Factory, and yes of course, Paris in its many beloved iterations. There are many things that link these moments—sex, drugs, music, fashion being among them—but one facet we’ll fixate on is that each of these communities were attempting to rebel against the dehumanizing threats of their time by experiencing things in the most visceral way possible. Every night at the café or on the dance floor was an act of protest and an opportunity to create the self and express that self. Every black turtleneck and cigarette was a (perhaps somewhat weak) statement against passivity. Every dance was an attempt at taking back the control of the self from institutions. Cue spoken word poetry, disco, psychosexual dramas.
This newsletter and community is our attempt to protect what is distinctly human in an era of increasing dehumanization and desensitization. Yes, this means discussions about freedom, truth, responsibility, free will, death, the void, but also really just reminding you to actually taste the wine you’re drinking, smell the bread that’s baking, hear the sounds of the glasses clinking and the laughter from across the room, see—REALLY AGGRESSIVELY PAYING ATTENTION TO—the person across from you but also the world around you and the world that was so oddly and strangely and wonderfully prepared for you to meet it at that—this!—exact moment in time. It’s about living, using, wearing out your own life and connecting to those who are trying to do the same.
We’ll talk about serious existential things (yes, yes of course!) but we’ll talk about it in the most seriously unserious way. Through words, visuals, audio, experiences, and community, we want to wake you up to your self. To coax you ever closer and closer to your existence. We’ll be joined by writers, academics, dancers, artists, philosophers, bartenders, furniture makers, fisherman, actors, ceramicists, architects, community organizers, bird watchers, names you’ll recognize and ones you won’t. We’ll tell stories, ask questions, and and stream the conscious. We’ll experiment, we’ll continually re-rack, and we’ll bust moves in a hope to invite you on to the proverbial dance floor of existence.
As two folks who have professionally dedicated our lives to helping individuals get cozy with their existence, a writer and psychotherapist respectively, we have spent hours, hell, years if not DECADES of our lives grappling with what it is to be on this absurd and anxiety-ridden planet.
And if this all sounds self-indulgent it’s because it absolutely is. And we’re hoping you’ll join us—that you’ll wake up to the fact that your alive and realize that it’s worth indulging and paying attention to.
Pull up a chair and let us know what you’re jazzed about.
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