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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Waiting. On pins and needles.  §

Well I’ve done what I can.

Weekend of stress doesn’t begin to describe it.

How close am I cutting it? Thirty-six hours close. Waiting for the banking system’s wheels to turn, and hoping that they outrun the obligations.


This is what happens when you suddenly have to buy a car and have about six hours to do it. Things go sideways, particularly when you’re already counting cents.

If the next twenty-four hours go smoothly—if the money is recorded as in before the money goes out—then all will be well, and I will soon have some breathing room. Not a lot, but enough, maybe, to get by.

But for the next 36 hours, I am on a knife’s edge.

It’s not supposed to be like this at 41 years old with an advanced degree, a good job, and no housing bill to worry about—but in fact that’s how it is.

I don’t know how a lot of other people are making it.

At all.

It is damned hard to make it in America.

Some days.  §

I should have known this was going to be a singular sort of day when our puppy Molly managed to steal three consecutive sandwiches from dear daughter in the space of about five minutes, and all before 6:30 am.

© Aron Hsiao / 2017

We were up at 6:30 am because dear daughter was competing in the Taekwondo state championships today and we had to drive 40 miles early in the morning to be there on time.

And she did, in fact, medal in her event. First tournament, first medal, first thrill of victory—just as we were busy discovering that dear son was rapidly developing a serious case of pink-eye. This meant that we had to duck out early, failing just a bit to support the rest of the team properly, in order to have him seen.

So we walked several blocks back to the car while the even was still ongoing, had ten minutes of drama with our now overexcited puppy (who had been in the car the entire time), and then hit the road to drive 40 miles—and end up crashing.

Not a serious crash, thank goodness, for us, but due to the angle of impact and the relative heights of the two vehicles, one that left our vehicle inoperable and likely not repairable at reasonable costs, at least for someone who is not a mechanic (i.e. me).

So we walked home where I rapidly printed out a bunch of financial documents and arranged for a loaner car which we used to rapidly drive 40 miles right back to the other valley again and begin car shopping.

By the end of the day we had in the house three fewer sandwiches, a new gold medal, a new car, and three exhausted people.

And since we didn’t make it to the physician, I did the wrong but necessary thing and pulled out my old (not expired yet) pinkeye antibiotic, looked up pediatric concentrations and doses, and began administering to dear son, whose pinkeye is by now obvious.

And so it is 11:00 pm and I am utterly, utterly exhausted—and sitting here typing on a blog.

I’ll say it again: I was wrong.  §

I was wrong about social media during all those years as a social scientist. Not wrong about the benefits, but wrong to be dismissive of the problems to which others were pointing. I was blinded by my own relationship to social media, and my inability to identify with what others were experiencing.

The fact is, social media does foster narcissism. High levels of it. In fact, it has turned our entire world into a narcissistic one. Narcissism has become the universal disease.

Our politics consist of narcissism.
Our human relationships consist of narcissism.
Our approach to personal growth is pure narcissism.
Even assistance to others now takes on the appearance of narcissism.

Those few of us left who haven’t been infected look at the landscape and take in a sea of narcissists as far as the eye can see. There is little left to say to them, and they have little to say to us. The is a deep canyon running through the human race now, separating the whining, virtue-signaling, grasping narcissists from the largely reticent non-narcissists.

Postmodernism and cosmopolitanism laid the cultural foundations; social media brought the infrastructural framework.

Not sure where we go from here, but I’m not super excited to hobnob with the population of the West right now. I have no interest in joining that game. Sadly, there is no other game in town. I guess there’s nothing for it but to tend my own garden.

Number two.  §

Just repaired a watch for the second time in my life, this time an automatic (first mechanical watch opened and fixed up).

Next trick: doing my own complete service on a Seiko 6106C movement. Will be a few months until I can get around to this. But I am ready to take a stab when I get the time.

Acceptance.  §

© Aron Hsiao / 2017

Sometimes I sit down and try to accept all of the things that I know must come. The kids will grow up. My parents will go. My dogs will be gone. My days as a worker will end. My days as a person will end. I will not have been a millionaire. I will not have lived an ideal life. And so on.

I can’t do it. Despite efforts, I cannot get as far as acceptance. I writhe and twist and allow myself to suffer—sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours—as I confront these things. I always feel as though if I sit face-to-face with them long enough, and plainly—not with avoidance or denial or pleading in mind, just looking them full in the face—that at some point I will accept them; they will become normal; they will become plausible; they will become simple truths instead of inescapable threats. But so far, I have never managed to arrive at acceptance. Only at queasiness and disbelief.

On the other hand, what I can accept, easily at this point, is that they will all come nonetheless, and likely before I am able to accept them. This I can accept without hesitation.

Privilege guilt for average people.  §

Here is how stupid things get.

The mainstream left has simply lost its mind.

Guilty of being “privileged” for being “average.” No. Just no.

Average: “Of the usual or ordinary standard, level, or quantity. Mediocre.”

Privileged: “Having special rights, advantages, or immunities.”

Now the average are supposed to check their privilege and feel guilty on that account. For the “privilege” of being “average.” Seriously, somebody wrote this, and somebody else published it.

This is all about the squishy SJW left, whom I can not stand and who have effectively driven me out of the left and away from academics, wanting to be sure that no one ever suffers and nothing is ever described as “less than.”

Some harsh news: Some people get the short end of the stick. Some people draw the short straw. That’s life. Some things suck. The idea that even being average is now a form of “privilege” for that very reason and by definition goes well beyond the usual vapid, virtue-signalling feel-goodism and into the territory of the offensively pureile.

Yes, let’s feel guilty about having, say, hair. Or legs. Or skin. Let’s feel guilty about being healthy, because after all, some people are sick. In fact, let’s feel guilty and check our privilege for being alive. After all, some poor people are dead, and why should being alive be the standard that everyone is judged by? I mean, how bigoted is it when I fail to feel guilty for respirating? There are people who can’t!

And that word—”dead”—is microaggressive In the extreme. They are “differently and diversely animated,” that’s all. I need to check my living-person privilege and never use the D-word again. Come to think of it, that word “animated” also makes presumptions and is thus micoaggressive against those who are not animated. Differently extant? No, what about all of those who don’t exist? After all, dead privilege applies there. Let’s go with “ontologically distinct.” There. Let’s all check our privilege and remember the struggles of the ontologically distinct amongst us.

(I interrupt this rant to make a philosophical point: To this crowd, it is specificity that is offensive and microaggressive, as specificity marks difference, which is—as has been pointed out by their very own postmodernist intelligencia, albeit early on before they recognized the extent of their collective sins against tolerance—the very purpose of language and signification. Thus, justice can only finally be achieved not when everyone speaks only in general terms that have no specific meaning, as this still constitutes microaggression against those who are unable to speak at all, but rather only when everyone is rendered eternally mute. Even then, there is the risk of microaggression against those who cannot be silent. We must therefore strive from some state of permanent subjective nondifferentiation and non-agentive-initiative that goes beyond even that. Can you see how this all dissolves into nihilism?)

The ontologically distinct. Sure, we can go there. And it buys us… what, exactly? Fuck all, that’s what. It’s pointless. It’s just badgering to feel good about yourself for being an “activist,” which somehow people presume “makes the world a better place.” This is what the left has come to. This is literally the way in which the left is attempting, these days, to make the world a better place. Not by feeding the hungry or by fighting climate change or nuclear proliferation, by and large, but by fighting mathematical concepts like “average.”

This is why Clinton lost. This is why Sanders is so hated, and also why he has become so powerful—because he is the only figure on the left illustrating deftly, by his actions and statements, the degree to which the emperor has no clothes and the virtue is, in fact, vice—the mortal sin of vanity.

Yes, let’s all prove how morally above-average we are by beating down the merely average on account of their undeserved privilege, the Nazis.

Fuck off, SJWs. Let us have our sensible left back. Go check your virtuous SJW privilege, whatever that means.

“Going through the motions.”  §

Did some laundry. Did the dishes. Mowed the back lawn.

Now it’s 3:00 pm.

— § —

Was a time when I’d have been pushing the mower along in the heat while chewing over the nuances of the complex arguments I wanted to make—but at times couldn’t quite formulate—for my dissertation. Lost in thought and citations and concepts, I’d push it along and dissertate intensely. Was a time when I’d have been pushing the mower along fuming about some reason my then-wife was so pissed off at me, and about how I could improve our relationship and somehow save our family. Was a time I’d have been pushing the mower along thinking about finances and financial strategy to get us through the lean years of graduate-school-while-working.

These days, when I begin to do laundry, or to wash dishes, or to mow, I do it more or less by accident, rather than as the purposeful initiation of a necessary chore, and as I do it I think nothing.

There is nothing but the air on my skin and the passage of time.

“Going through the motions,” I think they call it, and it is stereotypically associated with people just my age.

— § —

When you’re younger you imagine that middle-aged folk “go through the motions” because they—to be ungentle about it—suck. They are essentially unimaginative, uninspired, unagents—previous models or revisions of the human subject so inferior as to be lacking a soul. They operate, you imagine, essentially from a series of written and unwritten rulebooks, the aggregate and bureaucratic code of society and convention, with nary a thought of their own.

When you reach that age, naturally you’ll be different—just look at how your imagination bursts at the seams, how you are chomping at the bit to confront the world!

Of course when you get there you realize that in fact one goes through the motions as a matter of being able to survive and to function. The mind must be off for this to work; when the mind is on, it must not only contend with the problems that are at hand (and by middle age they are manifold and quite serious), but also with History.

— § —

History is the bugaboo here, because as one ages, it grows—the part of life that is behind you, the part with the consequences that echo forward to the present, and that multiply like weeds or rabbits—continually gets larger (as does the canon of consequences that you will and are enduring), while the realm of possibility—that is to say, the future and the things that you’d plausibly like to do or plausibly might do, and that thus inspire planning, agency, and purposive agency—continually gets smaller.

By middle age, the past has become the Past; history as become History, and as one tries to march along through the day, these represent significant, stumble-worthy debris along the road underfoot. The cognitive overhead and costs associated with having to conceptualize and cope with History at some point surpass the cognitive and motivational benefits of aspiration about the ever-shrinking future.

To have any hope of functioning, you must find a way to make History into mere history again, but given that one’s history comes to tower over one’s consciousness as it grows, this is very difficult to do.

“Going through the motions” isn’t a strategy; it’s a tactic. It’s a way of buying time, of bogging the blitzkrieg down in trench warfare so that there is some hope of finding a way to win.

One does catch hints, now and then, in one’s mind of minds that virtually every resource is being dedicated to this tactic and a kind of stalemate has been reached, since with every moment, history grows and the equilibrium must be pursued and recreated anew with mindful mindlessness.

“Going through the motions” is, in fact, thus an active strategy in pursuit of passivity, with the goal of arresting the avalanche of time that will, ultimately, come down on your head and result in your personal—emotional, cognitive, physical—death.

In short, “going through the motions” is buying time. Time to live. Even if that isn’t much, it’s not nothing—and unless you were born an elite, it’s what you’ve got.

— § —

It falls by birthright only to the elites on the coasts, to the legacies and to the bureaucrats’ sons and daughters, to be alive and conscious and engaged after forty. To have ideas. To think a thought every now and then.

Thought is, in fact, a form of hereditary privilege.

For the rest of us, ours is to try to merely stay at least one step ahead of History, so that tomorrow comes again.

Do laundry. Wash dishes. Mow lawn. Work hard not to think ever again—even about not thinking ever again—because you stand at the edge of the cliff of irreversible decline and once you do, your days are short and numbered.

So long as there are people who depend on you, your job is, first and foremost, to carry them as far as “going through the motions,” too. Then, they’re on their own.

One day at a time.  §

After 2:00 am with tomorrow a busy workday and I sit here doing little trivial things trying to convince myself to go to bed.

My problem is that I never want a day to end; each lost day is a lost battle against time. Day after day after day I lose, but it’s as though every day I’m convinced that this might be the first time I win—or at least force a draw.

I’d settle for that.

Also—enough with the liminality in my life. Something’s got to give. Either that or solidify.

I’d settle for either.

Change.  §

Young folk muse a lot. They use their brains. At the same time, they frown at the older folk who walk around apparently without a thought in their heads, going through the motions. This is because young people believe that if they change something, something will change, while older folk have realized that no matter what they change, nothing will change. So they stop thinking about it.

Time, memory, change.  §

The boy goes in for surgery in less than 48 hours. The last time he did this (actually oral work under general anesthesia at a hospital, when he was very small, to correct multiple cavities with which he was born), he was just barely walking and talking. The family unit was intact, though at times strained.

It was a different universe.

This is happening when he’s young enough that he won’t remember what it was like. Years on, he’ll only remember the fact that it happened, as will be the case with the divorce, and with so many other things.

I’m glad that the kids won’t remember much, if any, of this. I hope their memories of childhood are like mine—mostly fog and vacancies, interspersed with very good images, frozen in (or is it out of?) time.

— § —

No job lasts for a lifetime—not in today’s world.

But even when one knows this, the prospect of change, particularly when not expected right away, can send incredible waves of disruption, fear, and the sense of the uncanny through the psyche.

© Aron Hsiao / 2017

I hope there are no changes just now. Yes, I know that there will be someday. I know.

But not now. Please not now.

The hymn of the everyman, before being overtaken (and perhaps at times drowned) by change.

— § —

The most intense experience I am capable of having involves the scent of apple blossoms. Every spring, when I encounter it for the first time, all of reality flickers for a moment.

I don’t know why.

It’s lost in time, like Owie’s surgery and any memories of a nuclear family will be.

“Like tears in rain,” goes the line. So overwrought, yet undeniable.

Why apple blossoms? There’s a significant part of me that imagines that if I could somehow just find out what it is in me—what memory, what experience, what past moment, what meaningful event—that is being triggered and relived, somewhere under the surface, all of my problems in life would disappear.

I would know what it is that I’m alive for. Because though I don’t know why, I am physiologically certain that the apple blossoms are worth being alive for.

— § —

When you’re dreaming, life is unbearably short.

When you’re paying, life is interminably long.

Worse, most of us do both. A lot. And often at the same time.

— § —

All of these serious, well-made black watches. And all of this attachment to steel, to automatic movements.

And yet now I find myself browsing through aging Breitlings with faded cream dials and wondering, since I can’t (and won’t ever likely) afford one of those, whether I perhaps ought to pick up a cream-colored quartz Timex on a leather strap.

What is happening to me?

— § —

I blame the surgery, the job, and the apple blossoms.

I blame change and the passage of time.

I blame the desire to see some things fade sooner than their time and other things to remain forever unchanged.

“Enlightenment.”  §

Once upon a time, enlightenment held a lot of promise. I think this “once upon a time” is more to do with youth and naivete than anything else.

No, I don’t mean Enlightenment, though that is dead also.

The thing about enlightenment is that every young person believes that this is an attainable goal, or at least one worth pursuing. This is when nearness to natality, a great leveler, gives the erroneous impression that all men are created equal. They aren’t.

Most of the population should not be allowed to breathe for themselves, much less vote or operate a motor vehicle. They are utterly, utterly intellectually and ethically hopeless; they have the reasoning skills of mustard.

The only reason for the wise and the clever not to form an alliance and ensure that the rest are herded like sheep and not allowed to have too many broken thoughts is that the second largest contingent in the population are the predators (many of them the clever), who go invariably on to be the “elites” in any such pact, eventually to ruthlessly exploit and oppress everyone.

And so, the Hobson’s choice. The only thing better than totalitarianism and a universal protection racket run by sociopathic mobsters—that we can actually have—is idiot rule.

And so it is that broccoli has a soul, hamburgers have “toxins,” the Kardashians are major figures, and “activism” is seen as a social good. In this particular epoch, enlightenment comes in scents like organic sandalwood, and flavors like organic acai, and practices like organic fucking yoga.

You get older and you realize that there was never any hope for enlightenment, and none, as a result, for Enlightenment. And you begin to see that the best thing to do, if you are neither amongst the sheep nor the wolves, is to close your ears, bob your head in agreement with everyone, and go along to get along—because either and any way, the world—and society—are fucked, have always been so, and will always be so.

It’s not anybody’s fault, really. Just the human gene pool.