Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

A post all about courage, crap, goodness, badness, and the question of truth.  §

For weeks, every day, throughout the day, I have wanted to write. Blog posts. Lists. Plans. Goals.

Then, evening arrives and I am blank, utterly blank. Instead, I put the kids to bed (if the kids are here) or I consume various forms of educational media (if the kids are not here).

Now here it is Sunday morning and I am again feeling like I want to write, but also drawing a blank. This is the block I spoke of before. There are things trying to break out. From the outside, they can’t be identified. They are clearly being represeed. This is infuriating.

— § —

I am having trouble separating what matters from what must practially, in the immediate sense, be done. The latter is overwhelming and submerging the former. Here again, I almost started to write what I did today. Then, I realized that this would be a pointless list.

What things that mattered did I do today? Something got under my skin. What?

Cleaning the yard.

The yard is a disaster area. Two dogs, tons of furniture and yard stuff, not much time to tend to it. I went outside for a few minutes and at least picked up all the bits and pieces of chewed things, took some tools that the kids had pulled from the shed and returned them to the shed, etc.

It looks less like a dump but still a lot like a dump. I hate that, but I also hate that the yard takes any time at all beyond simply mowing it.

The yard is full of things. Things. Trampoline, lawn furniture, (now collapsed or fallen) garden decor, pots and plants, yard tools, toys, etc. I hate all this crap. A yard should not be full of crap. Crap requires care, or it turns into shit. This is another remnant—they are still everywhere—of marriage. I did not like or appreciate stuff in the yard, but my ex-wife loved it. Hence, a yard full of stuff. Then, divorce.

Then, there is nobody to take care of the crap, and so it falls into disrepair. Then it falls into fragments of junk. Then you add an extra dog to the one that was already here and the fragments of junk are everywhere and full of teeth marks.

Two and a half years on, this is still a major thread in my life. There is so much stuff to clean up and throw away; I am routinely overwhelmed by the volume. Sometimes it feels as though every nook and cranny is full of crap. When you are getting married, nobody ever points out that if the two of you focus on different kinds of material objects and material spaces in life, then each of you has a domain of care an maintenance that is separate from the other, and these don’t overlap, so fair warning, if you split up in the end, there will be a million parts of your life that you never look at that will be a disaster.

Forget about yard; let’s talk closets. I don’t use them. I never have. So the closets, too, are still packed with crap. I’d love to empty them out, but would I love to empty them out enough to take an entire weekend to go through them, spend the dollars to rent a u-haul, and drag all of that stuff out of here? There must be several hundred to a thousand pounds of it, at least.

No, no I don’t. Do I want someone else coming over and rifling through the closets? No, no I fucking don’t. No I fucking don’t. So there they sit, full. Someday when I finally get out of here or die, someone else will have to look into that. Meanwhile, over time things fall, get dusty, get old, it all starts to look more like dump (once again) than storage.

My life is full of crap. Physical crap. Emotional crap. And years later, making a dent in this crap load feels like an impossible task. Some people do the “disappear, run away, and start over as someone new” thing to get rid of their crap. Some people just keep the crap around until they die, and then people going through their estate wearing gloves and shedding tears say to each other many times over the course of weeks, “My God, he had so much crap.”

Does anyone ever manage to overcome the crapload and clean their lives out while still alive, and while preserving their identity, sanity, and relationships? Is this something only rich people can do, because only they can afford the expenses, time, and opportunity cost of each to get this done? There are a lot of things that are considered to be either strong or weak moral imperatives, yet only rich people can practically do. I would not be surprised if this was another.

Thing 1: My life is full of crap.

— § —

Beyond this, it all seems to be evocative of the wider sphere of things. We live in a crap world right now. A bad world. If there is one defining characteristic of the world right now, it’s not just that it’s “fallen” or something, but that it’s bad. It’s crap.

  • Trump is bad crap. Hillary was and is bad crap.
  • The cotton ceiling is bad crap.
  • The fake economy whose returns accrue to the 1% is bad crap.
  • Our confrontation with global warming, which we caused, is bad crap.
  • Conservative hypocrisy politics is bad crap.
  • Liberal identity politics is bad crap.
  • Marxism is bad crap.
  • Classical liberalism is bad crap.
  • The media is and pushes bad crap.
  • Our bridges are made of bad crap.
  • The proliferation of guns and gun violence is bad crap.
  • The need to regulate them is bad crap.
  • The idea that the problem will get better without regulation is bad crap.
  • Our electronics update cycle is and generates bad crap.
  • The apps that we use on our electronics are bad crap.
  • We eat and drink bad crap.
  • The educational system is bad crap.
  • The products that we rely on for everyday life are bad crap.
  • Feminism is bad crap.
  • Anti-feminism is bad crap.
  • Leaders foreign and domestic are bad crap.
  • The whole global culture, and all its parts, and all its material things, are bad crap.

The world is every bit as crapped up, as total shite, as my yard and my closets are right now. It needs a flood. If I were God, I would organize a flood and flood the fuck out of that thing, because that seems a lot more practicable than trying to clean it all up.

But I’m not God. I don’t even know if I believe in God. I used to be a committed atheist, but these days bothering to do or think about that seems like more bad crap. I mean, what’s the point? What, exactly? Seriously. Idealistic crap, on all sides.

I spent a lot of my life looking for truth and light and all of that, but in fact right now I’d settle for something—anything, almost—that’s simply good.

Is there anything out there, or anyone, frankly, that’s good? Just simple, old-fashioned, basic good? Not perfect, not rapturous, not glorious, none of that shit. Just good. Good enough. Better than bad. Not bad crap. Anything?

This brings me to a philosophical question that has, I think, been troubling me under the surface for a while now.

Clearly, not everything that is true is good.

But—is everything that is good necessarily true? This would imply that false things cannot be good, and that good things cannot be false. This is a big bridge for me to cross. I lack the philosophical training to do it. I read Kant and Hegel and Marcuse and Adorno and Rawls and Taylor and so on.

But even though people might say that the canon of philosophy, inasmuch as it bleeds out into other disciplines, is concerned with precisely questions like these, I can’t help but feel that it isn’t. Not really. If I were to come up with a metaphor, it would sound absurd. Something akin to “It’s like trying to enjoy a particular novel by not picking up the novel, or even having it in your possession, but instead by going to your toolbox, getting out a screwdriver and some screws, and screwing them carefully into your wall horizontally at 24-inch gaps.”

Under such conditons, the point is driven home by a question like, “So, you’ve finished screwing in all your pointless screws. Did you enjoy that novel?”

That’s how I feel about philosophy right now. And about its relationship to the question of goodness and truth.

Thing 2: The world is full of bad crap, and I’d like to find something, anything, that’s just simply good right now—and I’m uncertain about whether this means that I should also be looking for something that’s true.

— § —

Do not react to this post, if you know me, by sending me piles of scripture from your tradition, encouraging me to go to yoga or to meditation or whatever, proposing a vegan diet, or other activist bullshit. You know me better than that.

I have been around a long time in a lot of places, have known a lot of people, and have degrees in literature, cultural anthropology, and sociology (including a doctorate). I have read most of the world’s great scripture. I’ve been to hundreds of religious services in dozens of traditions. I’ve done yoga. I’ve meditated. I’ve traveled. I’ve been vegan. I’ve even been an activist of the most strident and committed sort over the years I’ve been here. I have done this crap. Do not send me even more crap.

I’m not after easy answers. This is not a consumer problem, as in “he just needs to be informed about spiritual or wellness product X.”

This is all part and parcel of a struggle. Any real struggle cannot be resolved with instances of shopping or sharing.

— § —

Final thought: One reason that I am having trouble committing myself to resolving any of this is that I sense that whatever I do next, whatever real goal I finally allow myself to conceptualize and seize as the next thing—will be very big and all-encompassing. Like my Ph.D. was.

This means several things:

  • It will probably cost me a lot (and I don’t mean money)
  • It will probably take many years, even decades
  • It is likely thus to be the last “thing” (i.e. real thing) that I ever do with my life before I die

It is hard to commit to—or even to begin to imagine—your “final thing.” It is a very different experience from being twenty and thinking about your “next thing.” In the latter circumstance, it’s easy to think about and commit yourself to twenty or thirty years, because you’ll still have the rest of your life after that to explore other things.

When you are facing the prospect of deciding on and starting down the long road that is your final thing… It is rather tougher to be decisive. It is a hard thing to have the courage to confront.

But I do think this is it. When I figure out what I will do next, it will be what I do next for the rest of my time here. Hence the questions about goodness and truth. Hence the desire to avoid bad crap.

There’s too much on the line.

— § —

It’s all in here, somewhere.

The question is, will it come out—or will I die surrounded by piles of crap that I carried stumblingly with me through years of doing nothing at all for lack of courage?