Small talk

How was your day?

It brought me a little closer to death, was made of moments I’ve already forgotten.

Why do you live like this?

Every day is a segue way one nothing to another. My awareness is a hiccup, a burp, a bit of air passing through an obstructed tube.

Why choose life over death?

Hope and fear bundled together keep a dwindling flame alive. I’ve hacked away at my capacity to care, and I’ve failed to kill it. Something in me wants life, the ongoing, the eternal. A little fleck of forever stuck in the center of disintegration.

Life is what you make of it

True, even as we are what life makes of us. We are worked on and worked over by unseen hands, airbrushed into existence. Shaped clay in an abandoned potter’s home.

A modern person thinks of tragedy as something bad that happens, often to large groups of people all at once. But tragedy is more subtle than that. Tragedy is the structure of human life. It’s the knowledge of death. It’s the fatal recognition of the self as mortal.

Useless knowledge of the end, of the end which can’t be avoided.

But you like thinking about this;  You enjoy contemplating your own disappearance

You’re probably right. I can always steal a little pleasure from a bleak meditation. A grim, comic spirit keeps me animated.

There is something seductive about the idea of disappearance. Funerals, commemorations, preservation, all unsettle me. Please don’t gather around my husk and cry for hours. I want to slip away without anyone even realizing I’ve left. Keep the party going and don’t worry about where I’ve gone. Don’t miss me; there’s plenty of beer and you’ll be leaving soon, too.

A rousing evening

A fight broke out across the street last night. It started in the house where black people hang out on the porch and talk loudly. From light nuisance to violently disruptive,  it was the typical dark arc of black people with nothing to do.

Women were shrieking and punching each other. Men were sticking their chests out and getting into each other’s faces. Crude and cretinous men love to put on a show of their supposed strength. They straighten their spines, widen their lats,  tighten their fists, they huff and breathe heavily. Hot headed, furnace faced idiots. Cobras with no venom.

Black women punch hard. They punch as hard as they are egotistical and demanding. Fucking swings of demolition.

I thought about calling the cops. It felt good to think about fucking over the delinquents. But then again I’m a racist. To be fair, had the private rioters been white I still would have relished watching them all get tossed headfirst into paddywagons. I felt like good old Artie Schopenhauer when he offered his opera glasses to Prussian soldier in his room so that they could more precisely target rioting communists in the streets below.

The cops did come, someone had called on them. Given the way people talk these days, I expected the cops to come out with guns blazing. Strong arming, tasering, beatings with sticks, choke holding, bitch slapping, neck snapping, scrotum shredding racist belligerence. Instead the cops merely broke up the fights and held the oppressed people back from injuring or murdering each other. Because of systemic racism.

The cops put one woman in a cruiser and left.  As soon as they were gone the night fighters resumed their cultural practice. The fighting and yelling continued for another half an hour, and then I fell asleep. I had been trying to fall asleep for an early shift the next day when the fight began. In their squalid rage, the blacks couldn’t consider the needs of others. The world shrank to a dark, dense pinpoint of boiling, incoherent anger. Fuck everything else.

Some people (i.e. black) don’t get the concept of public space. They don’t get that different public spaces are defined by different needs depending on their contexts. A neighborhood street at one in the morning is not a space meant for loud, violent behavior. That sort of behavior is the undoing of that space and the way it’s meant to be maintained. But imagine if that thought had magically entered into one of their heads.

Guys, wait, I know we’re about to kill each other over something so petty I’ve already forgotten what it was, but maybe we shouldn’t be making this much noise out here on the streets when people are trying to sleep. Many people in society have jobs which place certain demands of routine upon them, such as going to sleep and waking up at the same time several times a week. It would bother a lot of people and make their lives more difficult if we persisted in our disruptive behavior. Let’s either quietly murder each other in the privacy of our own homes or just call it a night. 

There was a shooting half a mile south of that fight at roughly the same time. I don’t know if it was related. Probably not.

Some sort of summary

Binary thinking is necessary. Assumptions are useful. Generalization is a powerful tool. Judgements on good and bad behavior are indispensable. Some apparently opposed thoughts are not mutually exclusive.

Many of our instincts are healthy. Some need a little work. Culture can improve or pervert nature, but it can’t eliminate it. It’s normal to prefer what is close and similar. It’s also normal to be curious about the distant and alien.

Fear is natural. Love is natural. Hate is natural. Rage, lust, and stupidity are natural. How we understand and express our nature is a product of nature and culture.

Good people can be made better or worse by education and influence. Bad people can be made better or worse by education and influence. Good and bad people will always, in some ways, be who they are regardless of education and influence.

Fighting power is like lopping the head off a hydra. One tyrant is gone and ten more spring up to take its place. People need to revere and they need to revile. We don’t agree on the good, but we can’t coherently maintain that there is no such thing. We don’t agree on the truth, but we can’t coherently maintain that there is no such thing.

Politically, preventing the worst is more prudent than striving after the best. Privately, the opposite holds. The distinction between the political and the private is fundamental. The state can protect you from hostile forces; it cannot guarantee your happiness and prosperity.

You are never owed anything. At best, you will be valued for what you contribute to others. Great producers and creators appear on the surface to be selfish, even megalomaniacal, but the fruits of their labors benefit everyone. They work and create for the common good.

The creativity and productivity of one person is not a limit on your own. One person’s happiness does not detract from yours.

Seek to understand before you slavishly desire change.

All things are suffused with irony. Everyone contradicts themselves. It’s fun to notice this and to point it out. Don’t think it’s not happening to you. Laugh at yourself, improve everyday but don’t obsess over flaws and failings.

Easier said than done.

Needs Improvement

Two days off. Need to take this time to consolidate myself. Clean up around the house. Clean the bathroom sink, toilet, and do the dishes. Pay the internet bill. Appease roommates who may be plotting against me. It’s paranoid of me to suspect this, but I wouldn’t put it past a lesbian and a gay. They get together and gossip all the time.

I remember hearing all my life that you shouldn’t live with a gay. I never gave it much thought but now I understand why. Also, I work next to Logan Circle in DC. It’s the gayest place in the world.

We live in a time when gay people are celebrated and encouraged. This is because gays are superficially fun, artistic, and fashionable. But underneath the veneer of cultural sophistication and progressive thinking, gays are deeply disturbed, pathological people. They don’t have genuine personalities. A gay person is mostly made up of dramatic, histrionic mannerisms, extreme vulnerability and cowardice, and ruthless cunning. Not to mention the grotesque lust that animates his life.

The gay man’s life is centered around immediate gratification because other gay men don’t care about anything other than getting off. Couple this with the fact that gays don’t reproduce and the result is an empty, frivolous life of short term pleasure seeking that becomes more and more depraved and desperate as the years advance.

My gay roommate is over the top loud. He shouts, sings, and screams whenever he pleases for whatever reason. He stomps around and slams drawers and cupboards. He has no regard for the peace of mind of others. He has no peace of mind himself, and often talks of his “other self” named Veronica, who is caustic and cruel. He’s on multiple mood medications and psychic stabilizers. He’s a cocktail of imbalances, tics and perversions just waiting for a meltdown. And he sleeps about twenty feet away from me.

It’s unnatural to forego reproduction. I’m selfish and corrupt, but for the sake of a culture’s health I don’t think it’s wise to encourage single 30 year olds to focus on finding themselves.

A Portrait

One especially perplexing character of the hypersensitive internet era is the superficially reasonable or charitable male interlocutor. This person seems to mean well but always ends up getting thrashed by an embittered mob. Here’s how this type makes his appearance. First, a feminist will post her opinion on how society is oppressing women, a garden variety whine about how something is unfair.
Then this man comes along, and he doesn’t outright dismiss or insult the feminist’s opinion, but asks a question that still has a challenging or skeptical edge to it. He will try, in his clumsy way, to have an honest, intelligent conversation with someone he is desperately trying to treat, in his own offensive way, as an equal. He bungles this, and the woman reacts negatively and harshly, usually with personal insults that specifically target his race, gender, and class.
At this point the man desperately tries to work himself out of the trap. He appeases, he apologizes, he backtracks, he trips over himself. He artlessly increases the offense as he tries to reduce it. His every move only further incenses the growing mob of outraged women and minorities. He ends by pledging to improve his understanding and sensitivity, seeking the approval of people who hate him and sneer at his every word and gesture.
I wonder at the motive behind this man’s behavior. Who seeks out punishment? The easy answer is the masochist. But this person might just be stupid.
 There’s a brand of stupidity that earnestly strives towards intelligence. A dumb man wants to be smart without being aware that he wants something he can’t have. Sort of a built in feature of his condition.
Men need to be careful, but they are often too stupid. They don’t know that women hold them in contempt just for being who they are, prior to any real, individual contact. It takes finesse for a man to not immediately incriminate himself in the eyes of some women. He needs to be in control of himself and his emotions, and not let the desire for sex dim his vision of his place in the world.
He needs to stay away from contentious issues on social media with judgmental, scornful women. He will not convert or seduce them. But he persists, and I laugh and wonder.

Scattered clouds in a sunny sky

People say that life is too short

that they never have enough time

When what they lack isn’t time

but knowledge of what time is worth

 

Life is long enough

if you’re free

if you don’t waste yourself

chasing delusions

 

Society holds people down

but people hold themselves down

even harder

 

And if a person can’t manage their own time

If their own life doesn’t matter to them

Why should it matter to society?

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 kids. 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’re corrupted by their environment. You take a decent person, expose them to violence and cruelty, force them to fight for scraps and then wait for them to fuck up. You see, they can’t control themselves. They are 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 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 as well as 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?