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Monthly Archives: December 2004
Five minutes to nine and the snow is beginning to come down. It’s going to be a strange year.
– Masters degree and University of Chicago
– Fifth successful book, first unsuccessful book
– Most serious girlfriend in years
– Decision: Ph.D. and tenure as my future
– Chicago, Salt Lake City, Portland, Santa Barbara
– Overall character = strange
– First year during which I feel completely estranged from pre-’20s life
– 30 years old is “pending”
– No academic plans until applications in fall
– Expected ripples and shifts in identity
Things are hitting me hard this season. It’s time for serious reflection. SoCo, here I come.
So many people in my life fail to understand that just as they are free (and should be) to do what they like, so I am also free (and should be) to do what I like in response. Thus, if they want to have me around, or if they want my favors, they pragmatically have to consider my feelings about the things that they do and the things that they say, even to other people, because I am free to go once I am displeased, no matter what in particular it is that displeases me, just as they are free to hurt or offend me, whether directly or indirectly.
When I say, “If you do that, I’ll be upset and may not talk to you again,” that’s not me trying to control them, that’s me exercising the same freedom of will that they exercise by doing it in the first place. We are both equally free, or equally unfree.
In short, no-one is the center of everyone else’s universe. They fail to understand that “Why can’t you let me do what I want?” can quickly be followed up with “You have indeed done what you want… and now I am doing what I want.”
It’s something that every kid has to learn at some point. Life is rough, and nobody is at the center of it.
It’s been 18 years since the first time I walked home from school through this neighborhood and sat down with my dog next to this kitchen window. The view is, mostly, the same. Suburban Salt Lake City — grey and cold and infinite; snow and starlings and wind.
Everything is deceptively simple, deceptively boring, unfulfilling and solitary. I feel my own individualy, my subjectivity very intensely this week, maybe more intensely than I’ve felt it since I was seventeen and full of chemicals, unclear about my future, and dating an artist who didn’t need me at all and saw me as some kind of man-child.
Is everything really this quiet and strange today? Or am I simply in the eye of the hurricane?
What will the next twelve months bring?
The May-Beetle Dream
Content of the Dream. — She called to mind that she had two may-beetles in a box and that she must set them free or they would suffocate. She opened the box and the may-beetles were in an exhausted state. One of them flew out of the open window; but the other was crushed by the casement while she was shutting it at someone’s request.
Sometimes everything in sight has a bewildering tone of finality to it.
In our culture, a year, or years, of association does not remove or even in some cases mitigate awkward feeling surrounding social interaction. Only a few people manage to outsmart Goffman’s framework of pressures, presuppositions, threats, and defenses; we call these people “real” and extoll the (widely assumed to be rare) virtue. In truth, they are like ironic performers or mimes; we tolerate a limited number of them because they define for us, in negative space, the positive material of our social relations.
More than anything else right now in my life, I want communication. That is what I have realized today, and that is what I have been feeling for the last several days. I want companionship and communication.
I am dying for the six hour telephone chats about (to coin a phrase) Life, the Universe, and Everything, that I used to have with friends in my late teens. But good communication is, right now, difficult to come by. Apart from the obvious (that people won’t be able to eat unless they spend the majority of their waking hours working), it seems to be a lack that’s situated structurally (in the sociological sense) in our culture’s relationship schema. Intimate/communicative interaction beyond certain temporal or commonality/sharing plateaus is taboo for “well adjusted” adults; instead, we pay shrinks to fill this role. In contradistinction to the “healthy” relationships that we (or is it that capital) limit(s) ourselves to, a person can say anything and everything to a shrink, for hours on end, and they’ll listen intently, without judgment, and without feeling threatened. They’ll return emotional and temporal investment in the conversation, and do so in manifold… for a price, of course.
The commoditization and capital valuation of emotion, intimacy, and critical thought make unthreatening and neuter a social potential energy that is otherwise threatening, through its transcendence of the exchange infrastructure of larger capital, to the hegemonic status quo.
Shrinks are the surrogate friends/spouses/children/parents that we are made to tie ourselves to in capitalism (in many cases, the single most intimate relationship in our lives) if we are in danger of becoming too emotionally intimate with our friends/spouses/children/parents (an instrumental value that clearly rises from enlightenment rationality). There are a number of imposed logics to support the individual calculation, a good number of which have been discussed at length by those in Marxist theory and the Frankfurt school.
But in the pragmatic sense, it remains a cultural value: with the notable but often unseen exception of a shrink, “I should be adequate and happy in and of myself” and/or “I should maintain my individualism and independence.” To need communication, reinforcement, ideas, companionship, or any real kind of intimacy beyond the self is considered somewhat unhealthy… a state of affairs that requires the attention of, interestingly enough… a shrink, bought with capital. For external subjects to support this need is for them to violate both their own line and yours as well.
There’s an anthropology paper and a sociology paper combined in there, somewhere or other.
And in the meantime, I’m left to dream about life as a young person.
I don’t buy it. Recently again someone I know wondered aloud whether they shouldn’t be “enough” for themselves, islands of powerful praxis and identity in a sea of weak emotional temptation. I don’t think so.
I’ve had almost thirty years of myself. I’m not enough for myself. I’m bored shitless with myself. I want other people. I don’t want to be okay without them; I don’t want to be limited to the meaningless drivel that passes for grey matter and storm clouds somewhere inside my empty skull.
I need to cook up some image capability for this incarnation of my Web diary.
Perhaps I will send out New Year e-cards. Or perhaps not.
Bread and games.
“Truth **is**; we will consider this to be definition, an identity. Truth is, therefore, to approximate and cheapen a little, matter. Lies are, to become a little more promiscuous still, truth as well. One all-encompassing macroevolutionary integrative nexus characterizes truth; one gartantuan organism-anti-organism, from singularity to epoch; none are reinvented. All are the basis for the all, for new construction; all is eternal and all is life. History, not thought, but matter, incorporates but does not consist in stories and rules that are simply the lack of transcendental mastry in the face of the entirety of what **is**, their ehnacement-by-contrast merely a kludge, though also a coincident truth. There is more, but it’s beyond you, and my space-eggs are burning.”
We all do it to each other. Shame on us.
It’s raining. Soon, it’ll be snowing. I know I’m a fool, I just can’t decide on the reason why.
the world is too big for me; i find it overwhelming
I was going to go out and have a drink at Monks, but then I didn’t, again for no particular reason. I am trying to think clearly, but the inside of my head is a little more like the proverbial hamster wheel. I need someone to give me a swift kick in the arse, maybe. I miss my friends, except when I am talking to them. I miss my girlfriend, except when I am talking to her. I miss my family, except when I am in the same room with them. I want company, except when I have it.
Maybe I am a spoiled, petulant brat who thinks everyone owes me attention and happiness.
Dostoevsky’s underground man said it’s all better in books. Maybe he was right.
I need to get a professional job, or do something that makes me feel as though I’m not just sitting around waiting for meaningful things to happen to me. I need to find something, but I don’t know what it is that I’m looking for.
Everyone remembers what it was like when they were small, and they could go to their parents with the largest problems on Earth, like “I’m bored, tell me what to do,” or “I’m sad, what will make me feel better?” and their parents always had the right answer, not because of the particular suggestions that they gave, but because of the simple fact that they gave suggestions; they cared enough to pay attention and engage in conversation, even if undirected, and that was both validating and helpful. Adult conversations aren’t anything like that, even when the other party wants to talk to you. There are still rules and expectations and a hundred ways to feel threatened or hurt. Childhood is like a curse that prevents you from enjoying the majority of your life.
I don’t know why I bring this up. I can’t quite figure out what it is I’m after; when my parents speak now, it mainly makes me impatient. But I have the sneaking suspicion that I am ceasing to exist. That I am less important to the world of “other people” (i.e. other than myself) than I have ever been in my life thus far, and that my own head is in turn emptying of everything but my own voice, particularly since I left Chicago.
In some ways, it feels as though I’ve always felt this way. But I know that can’t possibly be true.
Seems like I post this Swans piece every couple of months. But here it is again.
when… when we were young
we had no history
so nothing to lose
meant we could choose
choose what we wanted then
without any fear
or thought of revenge
but then you grew old
and i lost my ambition
so i gained an addiction
to drink and depression
(they are mine…
my only true friends
and i’ll keep them with me
until the very end)
i’d choose not to remember
but i miss your arrogance
and i need your intelligence
and your hate for authority…
but now you’re gone
i read it today
they found you in spain
face down in the street
with a bottle in your hand
and a wild smile on your face
and a knife in your back
you died in a foreign land
and they found my letter
rolled up in your pocket
where i said i’d kill myself
if she left me again
so now she’s gone
and you’re both in my mind
i’ve got one thing to say
before i am drunk again…
god damn the sun
god damn the sun
god damn anyone
that says a kind word
god damn the sun
god damn the sun
god damn the light it shines
and this world it shows
god damn the sun
I upset her tonight without meaning to. Notre Dame lost. The laptop part I’m waiting on still didn’t come. I have indigestion. My cat doesn’t sleep with me this visit. I haven’t painted a canvas in years. I’ve been invited to Nicaragua, but I won’t go. My car is a mess. It’s raining.
I used to love it when it rained on U/U campus.
I still love so many things… but things are somehow submerged tonight, in a way.
I want to call her right now, just for the company. But I don’t know what we’d talk about. And anyway, it’s late, she’s either asleep or out.
I should have gone out.
I’ve been lonely for a lot of years.
I am in a bad mood.
People are driving me fucking crazy. Ennui.
I am impossibly unhappy right now, for no particular reason.
On a local radio call-in show today, talking about the disaster: “I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Now at least the rest of the world maybe knows how we felt on 9/11.”
On CNN, which is at least better than Fox, talking to an American in the area on the phone: “We understand that phone use in the area is being limited to five minutes per person, so I don’t want to take up all of your time. Tell us about how the waves sounded.” (That’s right… Not “tell us how the people in the area are coping” or “tell us what’s most needed in the area you’re in” or “tell us what people at home can do to help in the recovery” but instead “use your rationed phone time with other survivors waiting behind you and tell us how the biiiiiig wave sounded.”)
I hate you.
With no regards,
Somebody hit a cat on 1700 South Street. They bothered to pick the bloody carcass up, set it down on a cardboard box, and cover it with their coat. But they apparently didn’t manage to move it out of the middle of the street or call the city to clean it up.
He lay there, lay there, like he was in the womb at first, steeped in his own disorientation and confusion. Finally, realizing that he was cold, he stood up quickly, resolutely, as though he had suddenly regained some part of himself. He hadn’t. On his feet, all reason left him again, and he was unable to move, unable to focus, unable to think, teetering in the middle of an empty room. He stood, perhaps for an hour, perhaps for a day. He didn’t know and didn’t think about it, and the lights didn’t change or go off. Everything remained as it was, static and useless.”
Abraham, you bastard, your people are responsible for pretty much all of the misery on Earth for the last thousand years or more.
So I think it’s time to start persecuting and killing members of all the Abrahamic faiths — Christians, Muslims, and Jews. They keep fucking with secular policy and leading the rest of us down paths to war, prejudice, ignorance, and environmental degredation. They don’t appreciate anything secular science does for them — not medicine, not transportation, not electricity, not communication, not entertainment… They just want to fight, fight, fight, and claim that nobody else knows anything.
Let’s just do away with these motherfuckers violently, like the world used to. I mean, these wacky Abrahamic believers expect it anyway, they’re always sure they’re being persecuted in some way or other, no matter what anyone else does. In fact, it makes them all happy when we kill them — Christian, Muslim, or Jew. When we kill them it proves to them that God is real and that they really are God’s chosen people. Hell, they’re all gonna be rewarded in heaven for being killed and persecuted in the name of Jesus or Allah or Yaweh, right? They want it! We’re giving them the upwardly mobile advantage in the afterlife when we kill them. It’s a favor.
In the meantime, we can stop the insanity, fix the problems the world has endured thanks to the neverending squabbling of these stupid religions, and get on with things.
An impossibly rotten night. It’s early and I went to bed late, but I’m done — I want out of bed. I must have waken up fifty times, tossing and turning. I had one long, continuous dream that bridged each of these interruptions. I wouldn’t call it a bad dream so much as a reckoning, a ledger of my past and present.
The result, after having waken up, is the realization that I am right now as forgotten as I have ever been, and this state of affairs will likely continue well into the future. It is the existential angst of adulthood, staring me full in the face.
I suppose middle age is about time to start worrying about these things. In a few weeks, I’ll be twenty-nine, so it probably shouldn’t suprise me that I begin to want to build my castle — that I begin to measure compulsively.
I wonder. I mean, sometimes I don’t know.
Usually I don’t know.
Years and years and years; it shifts under you and you don’t see it; you’re now who you are, welcome to your life; no, there are no hints about things; yours, all yours.
Most used-up message ever (and also most true).
Up where the smoke is all billered and curled,
‘Tween pavement and stars,
is the chimney sweep world.
When there’s hardly no day nor hardly no night,
there’s things half in shadow and halfway in light,
On the rooftops of London, coo, what a sight!
The most worthwhile moments have been the ones spent outdoors in the city, invisible to anyone else, like everyone else, a basic ball of visual perception and chilly subdermal nerves, lost in a little drawer full of side streets. If you’re like me, in memories it’s always raining. Life, so far as you can piece it back together, is an endless string of trite romance film endings with filler in between them. Everything you know becomes a kind of nostalgia for scenes that never existed; you know that it always sucks in the present, but inevitably, with each new thing you can’t have any more, a sad, wild, hyper-commercial, Helweinesque magic takes over; you drink yourself silly with longing for every one of the poster-framed, posed-and-gorgeous moments of dimly-lit legend that you think you might remember so very well.
You’re so in love with your own broken imagination you wanna scream. Inside your head, you do.
And then in your mind’s eye you run away, laughing.
“Don’t say there’s nothing here to see. Don’t say it.”