Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: February 2018

On Saturday nights these days, nothing makes any sense.  §

I am keeping the kids company while they go to sleep.

Some things excerpted from a conversation with a NOBF (left as an obscure exercise to the reader) today.

— § —

The blog has been apocalyptic as of late. This can be laid at the feet of a lot of different things, so I’ll punt and not lay it at the feet of anything in particular. But I do recognize the tendency.

— § —

I do think that my perspective has not been particularly good lately. Whenever you allow yourself to descend into short-term and purely circumstantial thinking, things are going to take on an exaggerated tone.

This all gives lie to the idea that tattoos can impart—or improve—perspective.

Of course I never really thought that anyway, but it’s a good gag and reminder. Still, at times like this, it would be more helpful to be reminded of what good perspective is than to simply be reminded of the word.

Live and learn.

— § —

Is it bads:

  • Is it bad that I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed my dating life as much as I’ve enjoyed my single life? That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my dates (this intended in both possible ways), but merely that on balance, life was better on the whole before I knew about them.

  • Is it bad that every “happiest period” that I can think of in my life is a single period, running from about one year post-major-breakup to about two years post-major-breakup?

  • Is it bad that I think both that commitment and reciprocity are the only purposes for human relationships, yet also that they are largely mythological creatures never actually seen by man?

  • Is it bad that I don’t give a shit that I just said “by man” there instead of “by humankind?”

  • Is it bad that it feels like an affront to my ego to ever, ever admit that I fall ill, from any cause?

  • Is it bad that I don’t give a shit about the state of my yard, or what the neighbors think?

  • Is it bad that I remember Poe’s phrase “the imp of the perverse” so very often?

  • Is it bad that I buy amaretto coffee because I believe that I like it, but then never drink it, then buy it again and again and end up with multiple unopened bags?

  • Is it bad that I have another birthday coming up?

  • Is it bad that I am losing, day by day, my motivation to “play the game” any longer?

  • Is it bad to have mid-life conversions on all kinds of ideas, perspectives, and habits in the most stereotypical possible fashion?

  • Is it bad to secretly ridicule your former self?

— § —

Note to self: Research how the religious overtones and undercurrents in Northern Exposure came to be. Writers? Cultural advisors? Cast improv?

Find out. No particular reason.

— § —

In the ‘80s when we didn’t have flat capacative touch displays, voice control, AI, or inexpensive sensors yet, all of these things seemed impossibly utopian and awe-inspiring.

Now we know they are just less personable and senuous ways of buying laundry detergent, attending a concert, and beating someone up on the playground.

— § —

I knew someone once who was sure that people were all basically the same in the details, and different only in the fundamentals—good or evil.

She had it exactly backward; they’re all the same in the fundamentals—good and evil—and wildly different in the details.

— § —

Sometimes it gets me how strangely inflected our value calculations are. For example, if I was considering spending a hundred dollars on:

  • Groceries — Ugh, that’s a lot. What can we swap with no-name brands or substitutes to try to cut that in half?

  • Tires — I know that’s a good price, bug do I really need tires right now? I mean, can’t we go without for one more month?

  • Zoo Membership — Prrrrobably worth it… Will we come that many times over the coming year? If we buy a membership we will!

  • Fiber Internet — OMG necessity, do not count cost.

  • Clothing Item — WTF is wrong with the world Wal-Mart here we come.

  • Taekwondo Weapons — Good price, good price, weapons are cool—

  • Automatic Wristwatch — Wow, that’s nothing what a steal. Can I get something even better if I spend $200?

  • Trip to Lagoon — Such highway robbery. But you have to do it, so they have you over a barrel.

  • Movie, Popcorn, and Fast-Food Dinner — Family memories! So worth it!

  • Haute Cuisine — Anyone who pays $100 for a meal is a dunce. No, just no.

  • Bills or Medical Care — F*ck this sytem and the way it makes me spend, spend, spend.

  • Furniture Item — No way $100 it’ll be on classifieds for $10 without too many boogers just wait.

  • Household Tool or Repair Item — Good heavens, $100? How am I ever going to pay for this?

  • Vet Bill — It’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s fair and totally doable.

In short, the values that I attribute to things are completely irrational and mystifying and correspond in almost no way to price, to size, to duration, or to anything else.

Of course everyone knows that this is true. But when you sit down and look and your own life, and really stare at the irrationality, it’s pretty shocking.

I am blocked.  §

More and more it is dawning on me that I am somehow blocked. This is not a regular “interval” in life.

There is some sort of mental or psychological block going on. I need to understand and break through it before the next thing can happen.

Time to get to work.

The Simple Truth About Brexit and Trump and Shooters  §

Here’s the thing. People want to matter. They want their lives to matter. It’s intrinsic to human nature to not want to be invisible, forgotten, dismissed—unimportant and unheard.

And despite a lot of flowery language that’s come out of the last century, and a lot of purported work toward the dignity and importance of every human individual, the fact is that nobody believes any of this fluff. The truth is that the plebes don’t matter, and in fact are generally held in detached disdain, and they know it.

  • Their desires don’t matter.

  • Their suffering doesn’t matter.

  • Their preferences and loves and family members don’t matter.

  • Their work doesn’t matter.

  • Their potential doesn’t matter.

  • Their futures don’t matter.

  • Their lives and deaths don’t matter.

  • Their identities don’t matter.

Now I’m not talking “matter” here in some transcendental, meaning-of-life sense. I’m talking socially, in relation to the gestalt of the population. Hundreds of millions of such people in our society, and billions worldwide—huge swaths of society having particular demographic characteristics—are cut off from any sense of social importance or acknowledgment.

The . half . that . rules . does . not . give . a . shit . about . them .

There are some within these swaths of the population, possibly a slim majority at the moment, who know, instinctively, that to a very few someones they do actually matter. To their parents, for example, or to their siblings, or to their kids. To the other parents at their school. To the gents at their neighborhood corner store, whom they talk to every morning.

Such people have this instinctive understanding—which is at the core of both Trump and Brexit—that if they don’t matter when the circle is “large-scale society as it has been,” but they do matter in far smaller circles, yet “society” controls so very much about their lives… then the most obvious thing to do is draw the circle of “society” in a much smaller way.

They’ll seek include those to whom they matter, and exclude those to whom they don’t matter, hoping to give the people to whom they don’t matter less input into their lives. Hence Brexit and populist nationalism. “Don’t care about or respect me at all? Then I don’t want you to have any say in my life. And I’m going to try to reshape ‘society’ so that you’re not in it and thus have no effect on me.”

Meanwhile, there are also some that understand full well that they matter to nobody. Absolutely nobody. Their entire experience of life consists of being accused and being negatively sanctioned. Zero empathy, zero ties, zero care. And the accusations keep coming, from everyone around them, and from “the public” at large.

Everyone is determined to make them into a disposable, anonymous scapegoat at best, or into an “enemy of polite society” at worst. So… eventually they give in to the role. “Okay, I’m the enemy. Of everyone. I get it. It’s me vs. all of you. I get it. It kills me but I get it.”

Now they’re identifying with the role. And with the knowledge that no one cares, and that’s by design, and in fact they are quite literally hated at best by most, and loved by none.

Well, what’s the point of life at that point? And if these people all hate you and consider you an enemy, why not fight that war a little bit out of spite, since there’s nothing and no one that you value in life to take care of? You didn’t ask to be born, yet you’re punished for it by essentially everyone that you encounter. Hence shooter.

As long as we have “baskets of deplorables” held to be such by half or more of the population, we will have the other half of the population wanting to redraw the boundaries of society to be more insular and close-knit and giving rise to a few who, crying out in pain and giving in to hopeless nihilism, decide to exact revenge on being itself by exacting revenge on everyone to whom their very unrequested existence is an unjustified and regrettable burden at best.

People who matter to other people, and know that they matter to other people, will not harm the people to whom they really actually matter. Not hipppie-dippie SJW “every life has dignity” matter that’s basically corporate boilerplate from the social media society—enabling us all as a herd of virtue-signalers to feel good about ourselves. I mean actually matter.

I mean really—no bullshit—matter to people. When you matter to someone in a way that is not negative (i.e. “you matter to me and I want you to exist and to have a good life,” not “you matter to me because you are the male white corporate oppression and I want to smash you” or various analogs thereof), you don’t kill them. You don’t harm those that positively, personally, and generously care about you. It’s really not that complicated. But you’d think it was, based on all the nutty discourse.

And even though it’s not complicated, it is hard. Because positive, personal, and generous regard is precisely what our highly activist culture no longer does. It can’t even understand the previous sentence. It asks, with incredulity, “Wait, positive, personal, and generous regard of the enemy? Surely you jest!” QED.

Look, people want to feel that they—and their individual life histories, preferences, likes, and dislikes—in other words, their selves—matter, positively, to those that shape their lives. And they will seek to structure their reality so that their life is directly affected only by those to whom they matter—or, if they don’t matter to anyone, so as to relieve the immediate pain and practical tyranny of the pariah’s existence.

People don’t need to rule or be famous or anything. They just need to not be forgettable dogshit, or worse, He Who Must Be Destroyed, as far as “Society-capital-S” is concerned. No amount of shallow activist talk, collectively or individually, and no quantity of activist bromides about justice and the “arc of history” is going to fix this. To those affected, it all sounds like the adults in Peanuts cartoons. “Wah wah, wah—wah wah wah, wah wah wah wah.”

In other words the problem with our society is that bullshit detectors are going off en masse but the elites, the chosen, the privileged, and the virtue-signaling popular kids imagine that the solution to the problem is a lot more bullshit rather than the hard work involved in seeing, acknowledging, sustaining, and embracing the basic humanity of people who are—yes—quite different from you. Look, they didn’t ask to be born either.

Our machinery for generating and sustaining social ties and social solidarity is broken. We are, generally speaking, a culture of narcissists who broke it on purpose in countless acts of activism that we’ve mendaciously sold to our concerned consciences for fifty years as “justice” when in fact it was really little more than our best Veruca Salt impression and remains so today.

If we want to have a large-scale society, we’d better rediscover a time when we saw in each fellow citizen and person—even if a stranger—someone that we legitimately valued as a fellow human being in our society, regardless of their background or views. Remember “tolerance” in the ’90s? Even that was a big step down from honest-to-god social solidarity, yet we’ve backslid a hundred times farther since then.

Simpler, for the activists: Hate the sin, love the sinner. If you hate the sinner, they’re just gonna sin against you for hating them in the first place.

Fix this and everything else will fix itself.

Sadly, there is almost certainly no way to fix this without or before the catastrophic collapse of the current global social order, or of many current national orders.

A fable about inequality, gender, race, SJWs, poltics, and social trust in America.  §

It’s 30-something degress outside. A late middle-aged white guy walks by the side of the road on a hill, obviously under-dressed for the weather. From what he does happen to be wearing, it’s clear that he’s a working class man in a working class job, and it’s rush hour, so he’s probably recently done with work for the day. He’s carrying a gas can, walking in the opposite direction from the nearest gas station, which is about two miles away.

One could reasonably suppose a few things.

  • He’s probably been saving gas to try to count pennies. He works full time, maybe two hard jobs, but he’s not really keeping his head above water. He cut things too close and ran out of gas. He’s already walked all the way to the gas station in the cold, bought a can full of gas, and is now walking back to his car, which is presumably somewhere within a one to two mile radius.

  • He’s probably freezing cold, especially as he’s low on energy after a hard day’s work and hasn’t had a chance to eat anything in hours.

  • He’s probably divorced, cut off from his kids, and has nobody else in the world to help him. He’s on his own to make trips like this; there is no one to call, no assistance to be had. Maybe alimony is contributing to his terrible financial state, even working as much as he does.

  • Calling an Uber is probably beyond his financial, as well as possibly technological and educational means.

  • He likely has many more years of this to look forward to, alone.

Car after car after car passes him buy as he plods along, arms folded tight. Nobody stops. Nobody even slows. Of course, one can make guesses about what the people in these cars are thinking as well.

  • He’s a stranger. He’s possibly dangerous. Best not to pick up strangers, they could kill you or rape you.

  • He’s a man. If he’s all alone at his age, that almost certainly means he’s a wife beater. Or worse.

  • He’s white. White people—white men in particular—don’t need any help. They’ve had thousands of years of privilege. There are lots of other people who need help, but he’s not one of them.

  • Might be good to help, but there are other, more important, more urgent things to do.

  • Surely somebody else will help. Anyway, four or five miles round-trip isn’t that far to walk in the cold, especially for a man. Especially for a privileged white man.

  • He looks like he works at a dirty job. No need to get the car dirty. Probably he uses coarse language or says embarrassing things that are difficult to respond to.

Back to the man. Am I just making up some sort of sob story or edge case to make some misguided political point?

No, I met him today. He said my sixteen-year-old car was really nice. He was embarrassed to be in it. He was embarrassingly deferential. His round trip would have been about six miles. He was about four miles through it. After working two shifts and not eating. In thirty-degree weather. To get one gallon of gas to his beaten up old car, standing lonely on the parking lot after everyone else has gone home without helping him out. Definitely his ex-wife wouldn’t help him out. She’d just laugh. His kids haven’t talked to him since the divorce, decades ago. They all live in the area, but he wouldn’t even bother to call them, they wouldn’t come.

I can anticipate from any potential audience here some indignation about the second set of points:

  • Cry me a river. As soon as he talks to his men friends and tells them to stop abusing women, maybe it’ll be safe to think about helping out. Until then, I presume that every man is violent.

  • Cry me a river. He’s white and he’s a man. White men have had patriarchal and racial privilege for thousands of years. It’s time he got some of his own. He doesn’t deserve a damned thing from me.

  • Cry me a river. He’s probably a Trump supporter. Let him get his “klan brothers” to help out.

  • Cry me a river. He’s probably a union member. Let him get his “union brothers” to help out.

  • Cry me a river. I work hard, too. Anyway, he should have worn a coat and been more careful with his gas. Personal responsibility, you know?

  • I have better things to do. I get that life is hard, but some of us have places to be and people that rely on us. Sorry he doesn’t, but that’s life.

  • Man, if it was a lady I’d stop, especially if she was good-looking. But stop for a man? Sorry, bro, no can do.

  • Man walking on the side of the road? I didn’t see one. When I drive, I don’t notice things on the road.

  • Too bad. I just hope my own son doesn’t grow up to be like him.

  • Wait, why didn’t he just put gas in his car? Anyway, why doesn’t he just call an Uber now?

I didn’t actually meet any of the dozens of cars that passed him by. I’m just putting thoughts in their drivers’ heads. Call it a thought exercise. I’m not even saying that any of the thoughts are wrong, necessarily. Each of them can probably be passionately and cogently justified.

But lot of people in America are destined for this life. Most young white males born outside of affluent circles know that it’s their only likely destiny. They may already be living it. And many others are besides.

He was shocked that anyone did actually stop to ask if he needed a lift, much less give him one for that last two miles back to his car. He didn’t know what to make of it. He honestly didn’t.

It took all of five extra minutes.

Sadly, as an ex-social scientist who continues to keenly observe society, I wasn’t shocked. It’s where we are.

Yes, yes, structural this, that, and the other. But people don’t live “structural” day-to-day. They live their individual, small details lives. And then they vote on them—if they’re even able to vote at all. I don’t know anything about this guy’s personal history or political inclinations.

The fact that most people would say that both are critically important before deciding to help someone out—especially this “sort” of someone—is where we are, how we got where we are, and where we’re going with even more determination than ever before.

There’s a lot of stuff in our “big picture” right now, but a lot of it is evoked, from many directions, in this particular scene.

Will the signs have been there all along once it’s clear where they lead?  §

You ever get the feeling—that raised-hair feeling—that something may be about to go down? That reality is sliding along on a narrow ridgepole, set at any moment to go pitching over one side or the other?

— § —

The professionals have for a long time been all agog about China. Can it survive? Can they hold it together?

Yet trust in their government and media is at record highs. Trust in ours at record lows.

— § —


— § —

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were events that, in retrospect, had long been brewing, yet at the time they shocked everyone. Nobody saw them coming.

The potential energy in the system was such that a few tiny vibrations set off oscillations that couldn’t be contained, until the whole thing shook apart.

Suddenly, it was gone.

— § —

Since I was a teen I’ve predicted that by 2050, the United States of America will no longer exist.

That’s never been a considered, academic position. More a gut feeling.

I’m starting to think I was too optimistic.

— § —

If I were to write a bit of free-association narrative tonight, it might go something like this:

In 2026, out of nowhere, a governor or the mayor of a major urban area declares that they’re done. Maybe they do it on social media, where it’s intended to be sarcasm, hyperbole, a meme in frustration. They’re out, they say, they’re done. As of now, they’re seceding from the United States. They cite a list of reasons, amongst them those above. They don’t really mean it seriously, at least not consciously.

Rather than getting into hot water for it, their public is immediately thrilled; it gets millions of likes and comments within an hour or two. Similar figures in a handful of other states begin to do the same thing, making the same declaration for their states. The national press—what’s left of it—begins to cover this in bewilderment. What’s going on? Is this real or fake, sarcasm and steam-blowing or official business? There are people dancing in the streets, not all of them, but enough. The population of partisans.

It doesn’t matter whether the original figure(s) took it seriously; their publics did, and the horse is out of the stable. The tide is going out.

Rather than be upset about this, partisans in the states on the other side of the political divide begin issue rapid and healthy “good riddance” statements. Their publics are equally elated to be rid of their presumed nemeses.

The public as a whole understands what is happening before the politicians of a now defunct society do. Everything is unclear for a time. Maybe for months. It’s not clear what has just happened; only in the aftermath and dialectics of the time does it gradually dawn on everyone that the United States has dissolved, that public and civil servants and military are dividing their loyalties, that nobody was very loyal to the old regime any longer.

Within a year or two, two new nations emerge. There are refugees and broken families and much pain running in both directions. Relations are not good between the fledgling nations, and circumstances on the ground are descending into chaos. Corruption, organized crime, totalitarian state power and oligarchy, along with a healthy dose of valenced cultural and moral fury aimed at remaining Others. Things are not good in general. Both become rapidly repressive and backward, each giving in to its respective brand of mob populisms as its elite seek to consolidate their status, power, and wealth.

The equivalent of two Cultural Revolutions happens at once. Many die in each place. Within two generations, the United States of America has the feeling of black and white or maybe sepia photography about it. It was once there, but no one alive any longer can really remember what it was like.

And in retrospect, its collapse had long been brewing, even if everyone had been shocked about it at the time.

— § —

Am I just dry drunk tonight, thinking up this story, and starting it with the year 2026?

They keep saying that one of these mass shootings, or one or another of these scandals is going to finally bring about change. But there are structural reasons why change is highly unlikely, if not impossible, in the ways in which people are thinking about it.

Maybe one of them—or, all of them together—will bring about change—in a form that nobody sees coming beforehand, because they’re swimming it in, unable to see the implications of the fact, or sense the texture of the fact that social trust is at all time lows and declining rapidly, underneath all of the problems I outlined to begin this post.

— § —

Gut tells me that interesting times are coming.

Actually, this makes me sad.

(Some scary, some inspiring) things.  §

The worst thing in the world is activism. The idea that you ought to spend your time badgering perfect strangers to change their mind about something is offensive on its face.

— § —

There are too many things to remember in life right now, so my strategy seems to be to remember none of them and wash my hands of the whole lot.

— § —

Shaun White came back. As the oldest person in his event. I’m at an age, and at a level of lost possibilities and squandered opportunities, at which that seems very inspiring.

— § —

I think I’m tired of keeping fish. So often in my past, a breakup has meant the end of an aquarium. I suppose they’re hard to move around, their residents innocuous enough to get lost in the shuffle. This time, more than two years later, here I sit changing the water.

— § —

Two years. It doesn’t seem like two years. It seems like yesterday. Every detail is fresh. I don’t feel as though I have much personal history since then. I’ve seen this happen to other men. It was scary then, and it’s scary now.

— § —

I spent a lot of years around jaded progressives who snickered at the Olympic Games. I think you have to choose to become disillusioned about one of the two—either progressivism or the Olympics. I’d already decided to become disillusioned about progressivism some time ago, but watching the games this time around, I’m happy to double-down on my Olympics “naiveté.” The “progressives” can pound fucking sand for all I care.

— § —

Speaking of, I am being haunted by my own intellectual and political history. The times, they are a-changin’.

Is a big chunk of western literature little more than a tantrum?  §

I have these moments when it seems to me that much of the edifice of the western humanities for a great, long time now has been a matter of desperately desiring that life be something other than what it quite obviously is.

There exists a kind of covertly moral prohibition against accepting anything. “Yes, but why should I accept it?” is seen to be the battle cry of the bravest hero, in everything from marital matters to cancer treatment. it is this cry that earns the cultural gold medal, that inspires admiration and reverie alike.

“No, no, don’t you accept it!” everyone responds silently, in their heart of hearts.

Unstated in all of this are two beliefs that can’t be spoken. First, that if others don’t have to accept it, than neither, in fact, do we. Our mothers all told us not to jump off cliffs, but in fact, we’re wont to do so if it means that we don’t have to take our medicine. This brings us to the second belief, which is that by refusing to accept things, we forestall what wasn’t actually inevitable after all and will at some point arrive either at salvation or utopia instead, as a reward for our patience and self-imposed long-suffering.

To accept is to concede, to resign, to submit, and a thousand other things.

And yet—it’s all bullshit. Humanness is what it is. No amount of desire, of lofty prose, of surgically astute poetry has ever changed this. All of this dialogue in western criticism about what the arts and letters “inspire” us to think, feel, grapple with—the very idea of “grappling with” desire and acceptance in the first place, comes down to a deceptively simple premise:

That there is deep value in rejecting the truth about life.

There isn’t. There is heroin and morphine in rejecting the truth about life, and that’s about it. And eventually the chickens always come home to roost. Your fortune, your extramarital affair, your gold medal at the Olympics, your award-winning Ph.D. dissertation, your string of highly successful parties, your string of highly successful perfect-ten lays, whatever—will not save you from:

  • Living a fundamentally human, which is to say, phenomenologically claustrophobic, life
  • Dying at the end of it
  • Being largely forgotten as an individual, as the actual you, shortly thereafter

There is so much wisdom in what Buddhism proposes here. And of course, it has always been the case that such wisdom is difficult to internalize, as desire is every bit as human as death is.

But it seems to me that the west at some point went miles farther, and in the opposite direction—not just to fail to accept the futility of desire or to achieve its transcendence, but in fact to construct endless blocks of cultural scaffolding and lifetimes of twee rationalizations about how burning desire and the refusal to accept things are, in fact, objective and meaningful goods in an individual’s life-course.

They’re not. They’re an evolutionary adaptation, clearly, for the survival of the species. I suppose that in some way it’s reasonable to say that it’s a good thing we have them inasmuch as they enable us to continue to survive. But it’s folly to embrace them personally, as some sort of salvation, or to actually seek out and spend one’s time reflecting on—”grappling with,” as it were—meditations on desire and the rejection of acceptance.

What a waste of time.

I never thought I’d go off literature altogether, but the banal, overwrought sensationalizing of the “human condition” in the western canon is nothing more than the same obvious and pointless note, played over and over again, by ornery and unruly children who don’t know what’s good for them and won’t go to bed.

The human condition is what it is. We all know what it is; we’re living it, briefly. That’s it. It’s worth commemorating, but no more than that.

Accept it and be done with it. Write about it if you must (hey, some of us do this a lot), but not in that way that makes the critics swoon. The critics are all in denial.

To discover Sundays, you must first leave what you have known.  §

I went to bed far too early.

Thing is, I was falling asleep sitting up, in my office chair. Experience says that this doesn’t lead to a lot of phyiscal comfort later on, so sometime around 7:30 or 8:00 last night, I dragged myself to the other room and went to sleep after just enough reading to get the words swimming in front of my face, which is the point at which the transition to sleep is seamless and imperceptible.

Then, I woke up at 3:15 or so.

Now here I sit on Sunday morning, awake in the dark, alone, typing.

— § —

The blog was down for a few days again. It’s been a while since I posted, and I’ve been aware of that; a couple of times I pounded something out, but didn’t end up posing it for one reason or another.

Usually when this happens, it means that I’m just posting something to feel as though I’m posting something, rather than the compulsion being oriented toward the need to actually write thoughts. From the outside, these two things probably look the same, particularly given the ultimate content that appears here, but phenomenologically they’re quite different. So those things didn’t quite make it online.

But in any case, as a result of not having actually logged in, I missed the fact that the domain had been compromised again. Once again, I’ve uncompromised it. I’m getting tired of this, so I’ve also removed a bunch of old folders and directories until I can clean them up and put just the necessary parts online.

This means that images in some older posts will be missing. Hopefully I get them back online at some point. Hopefully.

— § —

Sundays are ciphers to me these days.

I have this cadence of being and experience that I go through, one that swings from intense sensation and perception to a kind of quiet near-non-existence. It happens on a two-week schedule. It’s organized around and by the presence of the children. In our half-and-half custody arrangement, their mom and I alternate weekends.

The Sundays when they are here are the climaxes, the apexes of day-to-day focus and attention—the days of my life when I am most intensely aware, motivated, and busy. The Sundays when they are not here are the nadirs of active being, the emptiest stretches of day-to-day focus and attention—the days of my life when I am least present to the world.

That’s the two-week cycle of my life. If we were to turn it into an aural metaphor, which for some reason seems appropriate, the Sundays when they’re not here are the most quiet. Then, over the course of a week, things get louder and louder until maximum cacophany is achieved on the following Sunday when they are here. Once that day passes, the noise falls away and we race toward silence again.

— § —

Race is the right term. Life is a race these days.

Not because competition, and not because tension or pressure. It is a race because time is passing ever-so-quickly. It is not imperceptible; the passage of time is visible and audible and sensable everywhere.

If you’ve ever been on an MTA subway train in New York City (if you haven’t, think of the Sesame Street song sketch from the 1980s that takes place in subway cars and is titled “On the Subway”), you’ve had the interesting sensation of sitting in place while seeing (thanks to the large windows everywhere around you) the world hurtle by at what appears to be insane speed, with lights streaking through your field of vision one after the other after the other, and the rolling roar and shudder of the cars filling every nook and cranny of space with the inescapable factuality of utter movement.

This is what life is like these days; it’s like riding the subway toward the end of things. Lots of ends of things, in fact—each end being another stop, with the end of the line to come somewhere after it all, at which time the recording will say,

“This is the last stop on the train. Everyone please leave the train, and thank you for riding with MTA.”

And as is the case on the subway, it’s not actually that the world is hurtling past you. It’s that you are hurtling past the world—but in your relative subjectivity, on the subway it tends to be hard to grasp the idea that it’s not you who are stable with the world sliding rapidly by in a blur, but rather the opposite.

That said, right now I am for some reason incredibly aware of the fact that it is me who is speeding toward the end of the line, leaving all of the experiences I’ve had while out and about mostly behind.

The wistfulness of going home on the subway at the end of the day matches the wistfulness of racing from Sunday to Sunday to Sunday as I age, end of the line still a number of stops ahead, but getting closer all the time.

— § —

This is one of the posts that previously didn’t make it online. I present it here for posterity:

Time, time, time. Time is lovely. Time is beautiful. Time is awesome. Time is everything. Time. Perfect. Technical. Impressionistic. Hard. Soft. Ephemeral. Concrete. Simple. Complex. I love time. I am fascinated by time in all of its guises.

Wristwatch time.
Clock time.
CPU time.
Time in physics.
Commentary on time.
Historical time.
Empty time.
Messianic time.
Healing time.
Little time.
Big time.
Memory and time.
Gravity and time.
Being and time.
Time, time, time.

There is nothing I love more than time. Having it, using it, bemoaning its exhaustion. Being blessed with too much time. Being cursed with not enough time. Everything in life in which time comes to the fore is meaningful to me, deeply meaningful, ecstatic, edifying.

I just . fucking . love . time.

I thought it was time to put that in a post. It’s been some time since I did.

— § —

I’ve been reading a lot. I haven’t been writing enough.

It’s hard to know what the gaps of writing indicate, but sometimes I think they’re a kind of impasse.

I write up to the point beyond which I’ll have to seriously reconsider or confront something. Then, I stop for a while, because who wants to do that?

Often at such points, I instead switch to reading, particularly works that occupy the unarticulated territory lying somewhere between creative nonfiction, self-help, philosophy, and psychology. I think that I’m trying to gather resources for the trouble ahead, not sure.

Particularly missing as of late has been writing by hand, i.e. actually writing, with a pen. This is something that I’ve always done, and when it stops, I really know that something is up.

In 2015 I was filling about one bound journal a month with writing done by hand. Now I am averaging maybe a page or two every six months.

What am I afraid to confront?

— § —

For many years, I was far left on the political spectrum, and considered politics to be a central pursuit of life. The personal was political, everything was politics, and everyone had to stand somewhere, whether they admitted it or not. I stood with Marx and the cultrual Marxists and with the American left more broadly speaking.

Intensely so.

Amongst the many things that my divorce shook free were questions about myself and the world that I wanted to live in (more importantly, that I wanted my children to live in) that I’d been avoiding, refusing to see, for a very long time.

The result has been a long, slow disavowal of the left—to the point at which I now reject it almost entirely. This doesn’t mean, however, that I have wandered right. I reject the American right almost entirely as well.

In part, it’s about a rejection of politics instead. A kind of realization that politics is pointless and wrongheaded. Rather than politics, it is moral philosophy that ought to be the central pursuit of life. A small, largely individual-and-small-circle way of seeing the world.

I mention this only because it has it has become clear to me just how homeless one is in the United States when one abandons both the “left” and the “right,” the “Demoratic Party” and the “Republican Party.” In a sense, I am pointing to what I believe is a deep pathology—the characteristic way in which moral and community life in the United States has become a purely formally political quantity.

Our way of being in society, our way of life is seen, instantiated, and enacted almost entirely through two political parties and the open warfare that exists between them. To reject both and refuse to participate is to cut oneself off from social identity and embeddedness in a very real way.

A primary driver in the “sickness of America” is the fact that America has become not a community of people, but a two-cylider dialectic engine churning away at the left, right, left, right, left, right cycle, polluting and filling with noise and pestilence all the air around it.

To heal what ails us, we will have to become people again; politics will have to be torn from the position of centrality that it currently occupies in our collective being and in our individual self-identities and once again consigned to a bit part—the small method by which a few little things that are hard to do on one’s own get done.

When politics is life, life is impoverished—not to mention warlike, a battle of competing totalitarianisms.

— § —

Also a casualty the last couple of years is my belief in the academy as a place of learning and social progress. This makes me sad.

From time to time, I still wonder to myself whether it’s perhaps not too late after all to become a professor and return to “research.”

The dictates of my conscience, however, make this a hard sell. There are many well-intentioned people who toil away in the academy to make the world a better place. They don’t succeed, however, because the institution as a whole is at this time fundamentally misstructured, misguided, and corrupt.

It does not do what it aspires to do, because it does not adopt the methods that might honestly lead it to do so. Inquiry is dead. Politics and consumption have taken its place.

— § —

But back to Sundays.

Sundays are the answer.

The question is the grand question, the one that I have been grappling with for two years, and that I continue and will continue to grapple with, I suspect, for some time to come.

“What is vital? What is worthwhile? What is the meaning of things?”

One answer is Sundays. Sundays—loud or quiet, busy or peaceful—are vital. Sundays are worthwhile. Sundays are the meaning of things.

Hello, Sunday. I am already awake. let’s sit together in silence for a while, a brief stop in the station before I resume my race toward the end of the line.