A return to whimsy

Last night I worked out in a local park. Chin ups, dips, and body weight squats in the DC heat. Not long into my workout little black children gathered around me. One boy wanted to do chin ups too, so I lifted him up and down while his hands gripped the bar. Then his sister wanted in on the action. She was older and heavier.

Then we had piggyback races. The black boy’s younger sister joined us. I put one of the negro children on my shoulders and raced the other two over a hill. I was getting tired, but I didn’t want to disappoint the little ones. They cheered me on and called for more races.

We played tag on the playground. Soon all the children in the park were involved. They would come up to me and ask if they could play too. Parents were either absent or lackadaisical, sitting on benches or talking amongst themselves. No one seemed to mind. No black parents thought that the white man was appropriating their children.

Let me tell you how exhausting it is to play tag with black kiddies. It’s a kind of workout I haven’t had in a while. For years my exercise has taken the form of sets and reps, structured time in gyms with dumbbells and barbells. Last night was a welcome change. I rediscovered the freedom of unstructured play and the innocence of childhood.

Those kids didn’t care that I was white. They weren’t nursing resentment or harboring fears. There was no tension. No Facebook arguments about which lives matter. It was just people in a park enjoying themselves.

For a moment I understood how people buy into the idea of cultural conditioning. People aren’t born bad, they are made that way over time. Corrupted by their environment. You take a generally decent person, expose them to violence and cruelty, force them to fight for scraps and then just sit there and wait for them to fuck up. You see, they can’t control themselves. They are naturally savage and ignorant. 

I saw goodness in those black children. They wanted to have fun. But then again, maybe I just happened to get a good crop. Some people are born malicious and stupid. It’s not as simple as we want it to be. If we all lived in a just society, if we all cared for others as much as we cared for ourselves, if it weren’t for the military industrial complex, white supremacy, etc

Everyone has a bumper sticker resolution for the infinitely complicated and often times senseless strife that plagues the human race. Children seem innocent and good to us, but we also project our own longing for peace and innocence onto them. They too hold hatred and selfishness within them. They are egoistic and violent at the same time as they are imaginative and giving. Environments shape who they are, but they too shape their environments.

I played tag until my muscles were tight and my lungs were close to bursting. They wanted to keep playing. I compromised by hanging out a while longer and talking with them. We sat on a hill and talked about school and having girlfriends. Dante, the five year old, said he had a girlfriend. They hadn’t kissed yet. I told him not to rush into things. Plenty of time ahead of him for crushing ass.

Difficult as it was, I tore myself away from my new crew and told them that I’d be back. They said they would miss me. My heart, hardened by years of selfish, cold rationalism, melted into a puddle. I saw visions of racial harmony, of a better, more peaceful society. It was a touching moment that brought some much needed levity to my leaden soul. But now it’s time to get back to reading bitter people condemning each other.

Let’s have a talk

Now that another muslim has committed yet another act of terrorism, we rush to remind everyone that islamophobia is the true threat. And toxic masculinity. And hate and ignorance. Hateful, ignorant, toxically masculine islamophobes are blowing themselves up and shooting people at concerts and nightclubs all over the world. That’s what’s happening, right?

Rash Facebook posts from your idiot cousin are more vile and offensive than murdering people for a delusion. Bemoaning the bigotry of your family is a more noble task than criticizing filthy, maniacal warlords hellbent on your enslavement or destruction.

Muslim terrorists only kill innocent people because rednecks provoke them. In our hateful ignorance, we ignorantly fail to understand their rich, vibrant culture of submission to brutal, intolerant patriarchs. Our patriarchy is far more insidious, what with women voting and working and living independently according to their own choices. We sometimes have billboards with thin, healthy women on them and that makes fat people feel bad, so we deserve death.

Every time a brown or black person commits a crime, it’s the white man who should be tried. Let’s begin a dialogue on toxic masculinity. By dialogue we mean haughty, self righteous, florid condemnation of a caricature of what it means to be a man.

We mean that women will have free reign to be scathing, critical, sweeping and dismissive, and men are only allowed to speak if they shame themselves.

There’s a nebulous concept that floats around befogging the minds of men, driving them to kill and rape. They watched too much television, saw one too many Arnold Schwarzenegger movies in their youth. Somehow they drank up the sweet effervescent message that it’s okay to kill and rape to get what you want. That’s what masculinity is all about. It’s toxic.

Men are angry, they are ignorant, they are intolerant of the other, they ignorantly and hatefully kill and rape because of toxic masculinity and the patriarchy and heteronormative capitalist hegemony.  We need more precious dialogues on toxic masculinity. We need to ban guns, sharp, pointy objects and clenched fists. Let’s stage public neutering events, where men renounce their toxic masculinity, their hatred and ignorance, and then smash their own testicles with a hammer.

Masculinity is responsible for everything that’s wrong with the world. This statement requires no further thought. It needs no correction or nuance. Men only kill and rape and hate and ignore with their toxic masculinity. They certainly don’t build, invent, defend, or advance civilization in any positive way. Technology, science, art, philosophy, politics, law, the comforts of modern life, comedy, entertainment; none of this is in any way also connected to or following from masculinity.

The drive to create is also the drive to destroy. Men are a threat, yes, but they are also the only defense against that threat. Muslim extremists aren’t going to enter into a dialogue with us about toxic masculinity. To them, their masculinity isn’t toxic or hateful or intolerant. It’s righteous, it’s ordained by Allah. You think that men inspired by divine commandment to conquer the world are going to put down their weapons and respectfully listen to what decadent western women, gays, and other minorities have to say?

Who in the fuck is going to actually defend the weak and feckless from the barbarians? It will be men, men who stand for civilization and freedom and art and self expression, for making life on earth a place of human flourishing rather than a squalid, despotic hellhole.

Masculinity is only toxic if it isn’t shaped and directed the right way. And hatred, by itself, abstracted, isn’t the problem. Hatred is a useful, powerful emotion. Hatred is a natural reaction to whatever threatens to destroy you. People who speak out against hatred in the broadest possible terms are full of it themselves. What they really mean is that it’s only okay to hate certain groups of people and not others.

And it’s true. Some people are more worthy of hatred than others. Now the real dialogue is who is worthy of that hatred, and how will the power of masculinity be harnessed.  Will it be used to defend free civilization against its enemies, or to dismantle itself and wait for the horde to crush everything we love and believe in?

Irritating people in cafes

Reading a biography of Arthur Schopenhauer. He painted the world in shades of misery, but he suffered most from himself. His biting intelligence, monstrous pride and paranoia created a philosophy of acerbic denial, elegant justification for his contemptuous conduct. He wrote beautifully of non-attachment while maintaining a grim death grip on his talents, inherited wealth and habits.

The translation of the biography is stiff and clunky, unintentionally comical at times. Worth reading for the subject and those moments when the phrasing gets goofy. I like how Artie would hang out in cafes and annoy the shit out of people. A disagreeable person to the bitter end, but redeemable because of his wit and style. He has my vote for smoothest style of any philosopher. Nietzsche is more theatrical, more bombastic and thunderous, but Schopie knew how to make the pen glide. He would skate across the page.

I cherish his mockery of conceptual effrontery. He railed against the verbal excesses and pretensions of the philosophical spirit of his age. In a time when philosophy celebrated history, progress, human freedom and rationality, Schopenhauer exposed the dark, violent, irrational core of existence. There was no benevolent world spirit guiding the course of history, only a blind, senseless, eternally suffering and purposelessly striving will behind the world of representation and individuality.

There is no transcendence. No escape. There is only the clarity of understanding. The subject of knowing suspends the will in the realization that life is meaningless. The turmoil of clashing, illusory individuals gives way to the peace of comprehension. Did Schopenhauer ever feel that peace, did he ever know within himself the saintly calm that he put forth as an ideal? Or was he, like most of us, at war with himself and the world as he toiled to satisfy his vain desires?

Imagine there’s no heaven

Weak and fearful people suppose that everyone else must also act out of weakness and fear. People without healthy senses of humor can’t tolerate joking and levity; they are incapable of understanding why someone would say or do something funny if it made someone else feel bad. For a certain diseased, depraved batch of humanity, everything is a struggle for power, a moral drama, and material for psychological analysis.

Take, for instance, the bully. What is the standard explanation for his cruel behavior ? It runs along these lines: the bully, though physically strong, is emotionally insecure. He is compensating for an obscure lack within, and rather than come to terms with his own inadequacy, he lashes out and inflicts pain and suffering on others. His mockery, intimidation, and violence are masks of his own impotence. The bully’s greatest fear is that he will be exposed as powerless, that others will see through his threats and force him to confront his own internal frailties.

How reassuring, how comforting and equalizing. The bully is just like us, weak and afraid, only he is psychologically blind to this reality. We, who are bullied, though we live in fear of the bully, are really superior, because we see through his defenses and know the truth about what he can’t admit to himself. We are all insecure, but we have the high ground since we don’t oppress others to make up for it.

This might very well be true. But it might be completely wrong. What people who reason like this can’t comprehend or accept is a far tidier, cleaner possibility, which is that the bully acts the way he does because it’s fun. He’s not compensating for a lack, acting out a childhood drama, seeking roundabout revenge against his parents or rebelling against an absent god. He’s simply strong in a brutal, unreflective fashion, and that strength seeks to discharge itself whenever and wherever it’s convenient.

People turn their heads from this unsavory fact. Nietzsche, that delirious, joyful asshole, never shied away from reminding us of the ancient, long practiced and still strong human enjoyment in cruelty. He reestablished the disavowed link between festive happiness and violent, wanton behavior. We want to believe that people who hurt others are also hurting inside. What if they aren’t? What if it plainly feels good to feel one’s strength in crushing weakness? Does this possibility remove the last bastion of consolation for the oppressed?

When a person is consumed with contempt for themselves, they think that contempt must be driving the behavior of others. If you criticize them, it’s because you hate them. If you don’t wish to celebrate their identity or way of life, you are hateful and bigoted. There are no disagreements or differences that don’t involve intense, bilious emotions. There is no disproval that isn’t damnation. Such a fragile, volatile person is constantly on edge, always on the verge of a histrionic reaction to a perceived slight, which for said person would be anything less than blithering encouragement and praise.

People also console themselves for not having wealth, power, and fame by suspected that those who do are really, secretly unhappy or unfulfilled. Once again, it’s an imaginary equalizing gesture, without which the poor, stupid, and ugly throngs of humanity would be even less comfortable with their wretched lot. Those beautiful, clever, mercilessly ambitious monsters are even worse off than we are, they are empty inside, and they suppress their sadness with sex, money, and dazzling achievements. 

Maybe it’s true. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe some of those talented, gifted, privileged people are having a fucking blast, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. If only the marginal, disfigured, bland, brown paper bag people had this guarantee, that behind the glamorous excesses of the creative and beautiful there roiled and raged a commonplace self loathing and inadequacy. If only they could be so lucky.

When God dies and his corpse starts to stink like a Calcutta Indian’s unwashed taint, people catch wind of it. And when they realize that no omnipresent force will be getting revenge for them, they become restless. The psychological tricks they play on themselves will work for a while. What happens when those tricks are played out? Just imagine the stark, naked resentment, the blind, revolutionary violence.

The decadence of democracy

Currently reading Kenneth Minogue’s The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life. It’s a familiar story by now. Increasing the number of people eligible to vote devalues any single individual vote. Western societies have shifted from a morality centered around duties and responsibilities to an obsession with imagined rights. Duty imposes a strict standard of conduct, demands self sacrifice, and encourages humility and gratitude. Rights tend to make people petulant, entitled, and aggrieved.

Morality is a peculiar Western invention that concerns how individuals behave in accordance with a metric that isn’t derived wholly from custom or religion. All societies have moral codes, but these codes are typically grounded in traditional practices and religious dictates. Naturally, Western morality takes much of its material and direction from tradition and religion, but it veers from this course by granting a much wider range of possibilities to individuals in drafting their own rules for how they should act and treat others. Individuals come to be seen in the Western tradition as players in a game, and laws establish the rules of this game. The purpose of a governing body is to insure that the rules of the game are respected by all the players, and to protect those that abide from those that would circumvent and subvert.

Freedom is not an automatic guarantee of certain services or products, it is a space cleared for unimpeded movement, it is the open possibility of creative action and expression in the game of life. Part of what gives freedom its ethereal substance is its purposeful lack of a definite, concrete goal. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness can be defined in a million different ways by different people depending on what they value. To be free is to be protected from oppressive power as you delineate the trajectory of your own life. If happiness for you is the accumulation of material wealth, you may pursue it. If happiness is Epicurean retirement to your garden, conversation with friends and reflection on the ineffable, the way is open to you.

This conception of freedom is gradually transformed into a set of expectations and grievances. People are no longer seen as capable players of a game that they, to some extent, make up as they go along, and instead are defined in relation to their vulnerabilities and defects. Humanity is viewed through the lens of what its most deprived members lack, and social systems are judged by the resources they put towards changing the conditions of their marginal and suppressed constituents. The very social system, Western liberal democracy, that liberated the greatest number of people from destitution and despotism comes under the most exacting scrutiny for its crimes and failures.

The concern with how individuals ought to behave is dismissed as ideology and replaced by theatrical, flatulent theorizing about social conditions. It is thought that people will be good in a good system, and if they act poorly it’s because the current system is corrupt, rigged, unfair, etc. If people are happy with their lives, it’s because they have been conditioned to accept the unacceptable. If they are miserable, it’s because society has unjustly burdened them. Only those in possession of the true science of revolution can transform the will of the people. The democratic model struggles to contain the contradiction between the will of the people and the grandiose, unrealistic aspirations of its governing classes.

Formulated as a paradox, democratic life takes the following shape: The People are considered wise and responsible enough to put certain people in power who will protect and advance their interests, while at the same time people are thought to be so incompetent and ill educated that increasingly restrictive and paternalistic laws must be drafted to corral their behavior and instill in them correct thoughts and beliefs. Elected officials have the power to legislate the lives of people thought to be incapable of responsible behavior and careful reasoning.

The people are contemptuous of their government, and the government is contemptuous of its people. The people expect the government to make life easier and more comfortable with more redistributive services and programs even as they insist on feeling independent and capable. Rights mutate into ease of access and  distribution of availability. Now there are thought to be rights to higher education and healthcare. Education and healthcare are not in fact rights, but rather rewards or incentives for certain forms of behavior. Playing the social game with skill and tenacity, and ideally, with some measure of justice, grants you access to these services. To conceive of such things as a right is to cede your own responsibility for achieving, maintaining, and furthering them. It is to put into the hands of the government the power to determine the entire scope and extent of your life.

More to come…

This is the best I can do

Currently uninspired, slug-brained, sloth-limbed. An inert mass, idling, leaking gas. Thoughts fail to form and flow; must be blockage at the source. Need draino for my mind pipes. I force myself to write. Who is exerting the force and who is resisting? Who finally complies? How many different selves are at work within me?

My sovereign self makes decisions and commits to plans that stretch out over long periods of time. It coheres through the unity of its projects. Smaller selves then carry out the daily tasks that bring the sovereign  closer to its stated goals. Still other selves resist these goals, wielding the weapons of doubt, indolence and nihilism. Defectors and agitators stalk in the shadowy corridors of the soul, stoking dissent, fomenting a revolution without purpose.

Why bother with your character, with becoming something in advance of what you are now? You are alive for no reason, why toil for scraps of meaning? Seek the pleasures of the body, stuff the gullet with rich food and drink, stroke your rigid rod until waves of muscular contraction ripple up and down your body. Feel your tightly coiled identity come undone as you spray sperm all over the bathroom floor. The mind is free of itself. A blank slate soul and a pile of soggy tissues. When the tension of life builds up again, release it through your dick again.

Sleep more, awaken only to contemplate the joys of unconsciousness. Atop your calibrated foam mattress you will forget onerous ideals and exacting crafts. You will eat deep fried dough covered with thick chocolate and caramel syrups, hollowed out and filled with glimmering fructose. Dream of success, of power, wealth, and influence, but do not pursue any of it. Work only as much as you must to provide yourself with cheap sensory delights. It is time to masturbate again. You want to reach of the bottom of total depletion, rocked by convulsions, ejaculating dust, your testicles dehydrated.

Don’t read, don’t write, don’t think.

If you read, you’ll forget it. If you write, you’ll be embarrassed by it. If you think, you will feel unease. Better to abstain from effort. No one knows who you are anyway; no matter how honestly you describe yourself and your life, no matter how much passion you pour into your works, you will never convey yourself to someone else. You will not be preserved in a book or a legacy. Find bliss in renouncing all aspirations, let entropy overtake you, feel your flesh and mind dissolve with each passing moment.

It’s not my fault

I can’t remember the last time I heard someone admit that they made bad choices. Or that they had a spoiled character, or lacked discipline. Or that they had no impulse control, no moral compass, and a low IQ. No imagination, no drive, no ambition. Pathologically lazy, self absorbed, cruel, envious, and invidious. Dull witted, salacious, rapacious, and gluttonous. Brimming with sin in a fallen world, in need of salvation that will never come. Deserted by God and he’s not coming back.

I’ve heard people accuse others of all the above. Well, not with the same diction, but you know. Millennials come in for a particularly brutal thrashing. It’s this younger generation of people who were apparently raised by no one and who formed their values out of pure caprice that will be the downfall of man. They have no attention spans, they worship technology, fuck each other indiscriminately without deep commitments that they’ll grow to resent anyway, and expect to be rewarded with treasure and praise for doing absolutely nothing.

And it’s their own fault, as long as I’m not in the same class of person and can’t be identified with them. People in my day, we didn’t treat others like fuck meat; we courted our sweet, chaste ladies for years with tender entreaties and delicate sonnets before we fucked the shit out of them, meaningfully and rhapsodically, of course. Back in our day we worked hard to drop out of high school and get a factory job that required the mental capacity of a 5 year old, where we were paid 30 dollars an hour and given generous benefits and retirement packages to perform one repetitive motion all day, as long as we didn’t get our extremities caught in the machines, which would have ground our flesh into cornmeal and our bones into dust. But we were well compensated if that happened.

Everything is someone else’s fault. Much of the time it’s not even another person or group of people. It’s an abstraction. It’s the system, the structure, the institution. Capitalism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, christianity, punitive justice, authority, hierarchy. It’s also the left, social justice warriors, cultural marxism, Keynesian economics, universities and journalists. Modernism, postmodernism. Sometimes it’s Kant, or Hegel, or Heidegger; we can go all the way back and blame Plato too. Someone thought something and wrote it down 2000 years ago, and that’s why people act the way they do now. It’s not because they are, currently, in their vibrantly fleshly form, complete blithering idiots with no sense of justice or capacity to reason, it’s because a book was written eons ago.

The tendency to blame other people and nebulous forces for human behavior is certainly not my fault. I’m a voice for individual human freedom. Sometimes horrible things happen to people and they have absolutely no control over it, and these horrible things occur with a frequency and severity that does depend on who they are and where they live. Nevertheless, we all make choices to be better or worse people regardless of the circumstances in which we live. If you want people to be better, you can’t just reform a broken social system, you have to remake their corrupt souls. And you can’t really do that from the outside, it has to come from within. All you can do is remind people of the power they have to change themselves, and hope that they have courage and intelligence to do it. If they can’t or don’t want to, it’s on them.

Economically, we have it harder than the last few generations in some ways, but even that statement has to be qualified. It’s very difficult to judge who really has it easier at any given time when you factor in all the wildly differing variables, and the fact that contentment with life is ultimately subjective. Quality of life as an objective measure will only take you so far. And yes, you can surmise that it’s better to have clean drinking water than to be forced to drink diarrhea smoothies for sustenance, but the happiness that a person feels, their gratitude for life and they way they treat other people is a product of the control they exercise over themselves. That has always been true and always will be.

The obsession with how supposedly easy it is for some people, with privilege and relative advantage, is personal weakness masquerading as social justice. People are succumbing to the vice of envy and dressing it up as activism. They heap shame on what they see as the oppressor because they can’t bear the shame within. Rather than combat their rage and resentment with spiritual discipline, they band together and inflame their vicious grudges.

They take the legitimate idea of influence and completely confuse it with irresistible cause. You may have been influenced by people to behave a certain way, but you are still responsible for actually behaving that way. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to over or under-eat. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to take out loans you couldn’t possibly repay. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to get a degree that would yield absolutely no returns on the investment of your education. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to have children you couldn’t care for. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to buy things you didn’t need.

If you can’t resist the stimuli of your external environment, then you will justly be crushed. If you need the world to mirror your frail ego, then you are destined to be shattered a thousand times over. You can perform all the mental gymnastics you want to absolve yourself of basic responsibility, dismissing the very notion as ideology, neo-liberal or bourgeois or whatever quasi marxist bullshit you can cook up, but it will still be there, haunting you until you make a change.

The Scapegoat: Updating Camus

The song was over, the stickered pawn shop amps fed back ear crushing fuzz into the air, the crowd of about 20 unwashed anarchists cheered. Clad in tattered Crass T-shirts, second hand hooded sweatshirts, jeans and boots lifted out of dumpsters and tin trash cans, they clapped their hands and slapped each other’s shoulders in a show of anti-establishment solidarity. It was a dank and sweaty atmosphere, a choking, eye stinging melange of rank armpit and belched vegan curry. Amerikkka, Inc. had nearly finished its blistering, uncompromising 9 minute set of anarchist anthems. Each song was a barbed wire rumble with the most destructive forces still dominating the modern world. Racism, sexism,ableism, transphobia, xenophobia, homophobia, capitalist greed, the prison industrial complex, meat eating, bigotry, fat shaming, skinny shaming, beauty standards, puritans, victorians, religions except for buddhism; each pillar of hate was demolished by the throat shredding vocals, the sharp, stabbing rhythms, and the bulldozer guitar riffs. A supercharged performance born of vital resistance, of pure love of marginalized life subverting the hegemonic hate machine, it was just another Tuesday night in a small, remote college town.

Addisonville was a haven for outcasts, fringe activists, weirdos, and 50,000 affluent business and sports medicine majors during the two semester school year. The small town combined radical culture and quaint midwestern comfort. There was nothing else like it in about a 500 mile radius. If you were gay, homeless, godless, anti hierarchical, or the scion of a banker or successful businessman, you found your way to Addisonville. Clayton was born there, he was what the matriculaters called, with some mixture of affection and disdain, a “townie”. His sympathies were always with the vibrant minority culture, the artistic subclass of students, the barista bass players and the lesbian photographers. He went to the Tuesday night crust punk show on a whim, driven by an unusual need for boisterous socializing. He usually preferred to spend his evenings in more quiet company, or alone with a good Chomsky and densely packed bowl. Daniel was right down the middle in character, not withdrawn or anxious, but also not uninhibited or garrulous. He could fit in without losing himself, and even when he stood out, he never caused a controversy.

“We’re Amerikkka Inc, and we’re not down with racists, sexists, and homophobes! If you have a problem with that, let us know!”

The lead singer, half illuminated by the dingy blue tinged lightbulb hanging from the decapitation level ceiling of the basement, roared in proud defiance of a nonexistent power. The crowd hooted in unanimous approval. And then an inexplicable impulse took hold of Clayton, and he felt his modest, pacific soul leaving his body, prime witness of a strange spectacle no one could have predicted even moments before.

“I’m a racist, and I hate gays.” He shouted.

“I’ll kick your fucking teeth in for thinking you can get away with that shit here in my town.”

Clayton had become the intersection between pure activity and passivity, an alien to himself, a puppet pulled by strings of his own making. The singer of the crust punk band stood millimeters away, glaring, staring, breathing hot wrath upon him. “Oh yeah, bigot?” And in the next instant, Clayton saw his own fist crashing into the singer’s rotting, chipped front teeth. Clayton felt the teeth shifting in extra space of the singer’s gangrenous gums, and he watched his target’s head bobbling backwards. The crowd closed in on him swiftly, tightly encircling him to be shoved and punched with justice. He felt the spittle misting his face, he looked into eyes gleaming with rage, he heard the barking condemnations.

It was a case of absurd martyrdom. Clayton had provided a service to these egalitarian warriors of the underground; he had given them an enemy on an occasion that would have been otherwise lacking. Convictions need to be tested to remain vital and firm, and these politically determined artists were in danger of losing their resolve. It had turned out that they were indeed capable of closing rank when met with opposition. Clayton became an effigy, a symbol of hate and privilege that the crusaders against bigotry could finally smash. As he fell to the ground under a barrage of fists and feet, Clayton felt the warm glaze of redemption spread over him. The progressive army marched on.

Man is the measure of all worthless things

Reading the Age of Atheists. God died in the mid 19th century, western society is still trying to cope. Leaders of thought looked deeply into their souls and saw emptiness. They looked into society and saw the need for new organizing principles, new beliefs to shape the gelatinous masses. Variations on a theme, easy to summarize: human creative power is the highest reality we can ever know, we must forget about transcendent ends, humbly acknowledge our mortality, and work to improve the lives of those around us without any guarantee that our efforts will pay off or have any lasting significance. Truth is established by consensus. If we agree, it is true.

Except for God. We can’t agree on that. Too much violence and oppression. In a godless world humans will become docile, polite conversationalists, irreverent ironists experimenting with their sexuality. Or passionate humanitarians, devoted to improving the squalid lot of the misfortunate. Or self creating warrior artists forming semi spontaneous, loosely federated, egalitarian collectives. Improv dance cooperatives in the forests, Dionysian debauchery. The speculative, imaginative power of the mind redirected from the eternal to the flux of impressions. Record and then beautify the sensations of the passing present, find meaning in precarious relationships with other people, always teetering on the brink of senseless suffering and death. Annihilation.

Once your mother, father, brother, best friend, lover is dead they are gone forever. Preserved in distorted copy by an unreliable memory on its own downward trajectory towards oblivion. Phantasms of life fixed by photographs, fugitive souls held in cinematic captivity. Eventually no one is around to recognize the records. No one to judge the events and actions of the past. You did the best you could, but there was no real sense of best outside of your obscure intuitions and the prescriptions of your community.

Art doesn’t save us, but it can distract. Art can give us the momentary sense that our lives have meaning and that we aren’t anxious corpuscles on a dissolving universal body. Our power to grasp and represent our impotence is somehow life affirming. The priestly classes are now comical, obsolete figures. Society is impersonal, mechanical, automatic, systematic. Manipulative personalities take center stage in the spectacular dissolution of authority. Posturing revolutionaries call for the heads of the State, but we’ve been headless for a long time now.

Book after book about living the secular life. We need more educated moderns telling us that it’s okay to live without God and eternity. The assurance of smarmy professionals carries more weight than infinite goodness and immutable truth. Don’t you know that your joy, which deeply desires eternity, is superfluous? Your spiritual awareness is merely linguistic convention and confusion, and your beliefs about an omnipotent power are vestiges of your infancy. Read ten thousand books on the evolutionary reasons behind your religious longings, psychoanalyze your need for a perpetual father figure, and feel the freedom of being a deranged, denatured fungus ape on a crust ball suspended in nothing.