Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2017. 348 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-0-9985318-3-0. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0165.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $57.00 in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in., full color.

How to be philosophical, how to be good and ethical and interconnected. How to be responsible, how to be free. Through his intrepid hybrid of critical essay, poetry, and memoir, Jeremy Bendik-Keymer has plumbed every part of himself to answer these questions. The result, Solar Calendar, is a truly holistic work suffused with intelligence, honesty, beauty, and care.

~ Alex Shakar, author of Luminarium

Like much of the best writing on the relation between human civilization and nonhuman nature—Thoreau’s meditations in Walden, Herman Melville’s “The Encantadas,” Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us, the poetry of Kenneth Rexroth, Robinson Jeffers, and Jorie Graham—Solar Calendar opens up temporal vortices, through which we can consider simultaneously the contrasting frames of human, geological, and even cosmic time.…I have never read anything like Solar Calendar.…Though the scope of its concerns is vast, it is a work equally fitted to the scale of a human reader.

~ John Levi Barnard, Department of English, College of Wooster

This books peels back and pierces through while at the same time layers up. It is a coffee stained, pages worn, intimate journal and professional philosophy text in one. Bendik-Keymer, philosopher in mind and artist at heart, shows us that those labels are really the same thing. In fact, the only category that seems fitting for this book is: human.

Bendik-Keymer’s writing is saturated with a feeling of open and genuine inquiry. I couldn’t resist (nor wanted to) being led through the twisty path. He suspends us in a moment of thought each day about the Earth we live on. His poetry gives us pieces of ourselves that are uncannily familiar and painfully comforting. The philosophy is a living breathing pulse that enlivens our experience, not a wooden game of chess.

The best way I can describe this book is that it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope and being captivated by the detail of each facet, each colorful broken shard of glass. Every once in a while our eyes soften and we return to the scene as a whole, in all its beauty. And we don’t really care which is greater.

~ Elaine Hullihen; conceptual, performance, and body artist, Cleveland, Ohio

Solar Calendar, and Other Ways of Marking Time

Hear Bendik-Keymer read from study 3 of Solar Calendar!

At the end of his life, Pierre Hadot was a professor at the Collège de France — a “professor’s professor” — and he helped Michel Foucault, most famously, conceptualize ethics. Hadot devoted his career to recovering the ancient conception of philosophy, according to which the discourses of universities are but a fragment of what philosophy is. His engagement with this theme helped Bendik-Keymer understand and develop a personal counter-culture to his academic work, a kind of original academics truer to the idea of the philosophical school Plato first developed in his Ἀκαδήµεια. But while Plato’s school developed a useful form of life, it had an ambivalent relation to democracy and to everyday people. Whereas Plato was in some ways one of the first egalitarians by merit (especially concerning women), he was also deeply classist in his categorization of intellectual potentials. He effectively thought some people were stupid by nature, having no philosophical worth. Hence the Ἀκαδήµεια existed outside the city, in practice exclusive and somewhat sequestered. To some extent, Plato’s vision of philosophy — at least as explained by Hadot — had the practical point of philosophy right, but this point still needed to be rendered thoroughly democratic in the polyphony and multiple intelligences of people. Doing so coheres with what Foucault was after in his application of Hadot. It is also what Bendik-Keymer is after — to extract what is good from original academics and make it democratic, as opposed to dumbing people down.

This “book of becoming” weaves together poetry, photo album, exploded essay (including tears and scotch tape), philosophical commentary, memoir, and aphoristic journal.…The breathtaking result is a philosophical askesis for our time: polyphonic, democratic, practical, and urgent.…This writing is inspiring, honest, and brave. ~Lynne Huffer, author of Mad for Foucault

Imagine the kind of philosophy book you might have wished for when you were growing up. Seeking a reader who would be patient and open-minded enough to live with her own questions and to walk around town with her thoughts, this book would not  have a single thesis but would rather work through multiple problems and be an experience, born out of life-experience. It would not be summarizable. It would be larger than the reader and open onto different kinds of readings. This is the kind of philosophy book that was at home in the 19th century.

It is rare to come across a book that does what it says….[Solar Calendar] enacts…[a] conversation with the reader that is generous, demanding, and disarmingly personal. Its unusual form bears some resemblance to Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet…. ~Shannon Lee Dawdy, author of Patina: a Profane Archeology

Solar Calendar (a follow-up to Bendik-Keymer’s The Ecological Life: Discovering Citizenship and a Sense of Humanity) contains six oddities: a family portrait, a parody-essay, a time-capsule poem, an exploded essay, a poetic record of an act, and an aphorism journal for a year. Their inspirations are Epictetus’ notebooks, Tarkovski’s Mirror, and Apollinaire’s roving “Zone.” Also experiments in ecology — the study of home — the six sections originate in rifts that challenge us as growing people. They alternate between environmental problems and tensions within families, as if the fissures in love and in society wash back and forth between each other as we try to make a home in the world. Multiple times layer over each other like the sounds of a large, democratic city. The personal and the planetary intersect. The space before, and against, policy where politics arises as assertion opens up in glimpses, fragmenting the body and inertia of oppressive orders. Philosophy arises as a homely and idiosyncratic practice of multiple forms of intuition, reflection and intelligence for muddling through life. Painstaking exercises in being human are grounded in unconditional love and in truthfulness — in the desire to become.

[P]hilosophy is an unfinished practice in being human. Unlike any other text I have read in recent memory, Solar Calendar expresses this practice by revealing the cosmos in the personal and the personal in the cosmos. … This is a text that does not rest complacently in the residue of its own insights.  ~Ryan Johnson, Department of Philosophy, Elon University

Table of Contents // Preface a. Original Academics / Preface b. Chicago Commons / 1. The ideas start in the kitchen / 2. I don’t want to be thoughtless / 3. I was in the open then / 4. I want to meet you as a person / 5. I carried my teeth in my heart / 6. We are a storm in wondrous hunger / Post-script a. The practice of ethics / Thanks / Reading / Post-script b. How a book works only by forgetting it

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