Journal of the blessedly deprived

Writing from the public library. My macbook air, the most electronically opulent purchase of my life, is dead. I sank my savings into that gleaming piece of garbage because I’d heard it would last a long time. I’ve had it for two years, which is long enough for the warranty to expire. So it cost me 70 dollars for the apple people to diagnose it. They haven’t told me what’s wrong with it or how long it will take to fix.

But I’m determined to write and post, to weather the storms of privation with good cheer or ironic detachment. I’m willing to sit in the library among the vagabonds and public masturbators until I’ve sufficiently practiced my craft and contributed to our esteemed global discourse.

My bed finally arrived yesterday. Last night I slept like a king. It was so soft, so comforting and supportive. Then my computer died and I parked in front of a hydrant and got a ticket. So that’s another 75 dollars. The lord giveth and he taketh away.

The less time I spend on the internet the happier I am. Maybe I won’t get my laptop back. Maybe I’ll write by hand and post from the library every couple of days. The only thing I miss about the internet is writing; the rest is spiritual crack, a series of cheap, dirty highs and an increasing sense of despair and anxiety.

There’s always something else to do. Something with greater primacy, something more tangible, visceral and engaging. Walking, working out, playing an instrument, writing, building and repairing physical objects and being with people. Your parents, wife or girlfriend, your extended family, kids, friends, pets and plants. Go be with them. Do nothing, sit in silence rather than poke at screens and absorb the neuroses of hundreds of dislocated strangers.

We’re not designed to process so many conflicting opinions. We can’t consume and digest a bottomless feed of information. I haven’t had consistent access to wifi for a week and I’m already noticing a difference in my attention span. Books are becoming a pleasant diversion again rather than a tedious task.

And I’m thinking about the hyper-refined conditions of my writing. For years now I’ve been writing on a word processor while listening to music through headphones, typing with abandon, my thoughts keeping pace with my fingers flying over the keyboard as I backspace and delete with careless rapidity.

Thoughts come easier and cheaper when you can generate text so quickly and effortlessly. And the moment I feel boredom bubbling up I have open tabs awaiting me. I can dull the discomfort of a blocked thought or poorly expressed idea with a trip to youtube or

I don’t need to know what I’m writing about until I open a mainstream news site. Then I can pick from six inane op-eds and base my next piece on what some airheaded journalist said. Or browse comments sections and fuel my efforts with bile and exasperation.

And if I need to research a topic I can use wikipedia. If I need to check spelling or find another word there are online dictionaries and thesauruses. It takes seconds to track down the information I need. In contrast, I wonder how fluidly and consistently I could write if I had to do it with a pen and paper, if I needed books, encyclopedias and dictionaries sprawled out around me.

The shape and pace of my thoughts would change. The medium isn’t the message but it does influence and structure what we say. Writing on a personal laptop isn’t the same as writing on a public computer in a library. And typing isn’t the same as writing with a pen and writing with a pen isn’t the same as writing with a quill.

My session is running out. This was written quickly in an unfamiliar place without mood setting music. The disheveled ambiance of the library is hard to ignore but I have to write. I’m also out of the loop on the latest political developments. I know Houston is underwater and Trump is crushing the dreams of the children of criminals by rescinding daca. More on that later.


First weekend in a new city. Autumn is in the air. There’s a hint of decay; the breeze is an ongoing sigh.

The internet offers me nothing. My brain is blank. Writing is unlike any other art; it demands a subject. You can practice other arts without having anything to say. Not feeling musically creative but want to stay sharp? Play scales. Practice other musician’s songs. Need to brush(ha) up on your painting but you’re uninspired? You can paint a portrait, a basket of fruit or a sunset. Everyday objects are plentiful. Pick anything, draw or paint it mechanically and you can still improve or at least pass the time.

You can take a picture or sculpt or refine any other artistic technique without original content. But you can’t cover other writer’s stories or poems. You can’t write senseless sentences or perform exercises. Practice coincides with performance. You either have something to say or you don’t. You’re either fertile or sterile.

The only way to practice writing without saying anything is to write about having nothing to say, which is tedious and precious. Writing is self indulgent enough when it explores a subject other than itself. So practicing scales on the guitar might be boring but writing strained sentences without a subject is morally and pragmatically questionable.

And there’s no appropriate ending to an exploration of nothing.

I’ve become a creature of the cafe, a saturday morning idler, a tendentious typer living on my laptop. And I’ve adapted to a lack of amenities. Right now I have to shit in public. Rather than bemoan the inconvenience I’m just glad there are clean working toilets I can use. There are worse places to be, like the turd clogged streets of india.

When you start with squalor, every little improvement or luxury brings genuine joy. I was happy to have new carpet in my house. Getting a fridge was like winning the lottery. At first I couldn’t sleep on the floor but after a few restless nights I’m now sleeping soundly. When I get a bed I’ll be in heaven. Much of our suffering stems from what we expect and desire. Freedom isn’t a given, it’s a product of control, of inner strength and discipline. We have an astonishing ability to adjust and achieve equilibrium in a wide range of conditions.

Stoicism combined with gratitude is the key to balance in a vertiginous world. Everything can be taken from you but your resolve.

Caffeine machine

Typing from the cafe where I work. My second home. More comfortable than my home. Better air and coffee, fewer bugs and stains of indeterminate origin. I wish I could sleep here since I have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and start working at 5. So far I’ve been unable to sleep in my new house because I don’t have a bed or an air conditioner. The refinements of civilization have made me weak.

It’s also the lack of weed. When I don’t smoke I stay awake. Watch the insides of my eyelids for hours. Acid trip reruns, fractal patterns playing on the folds of my brain. And then the horror show begins. I imagine bad things happening to me during the day when it’s beautiful, when the birds are singing and the sun is shining. Imagine how bad it gets at night when I can’t sleep in a stuffy shitbox apartment with a flimsy glass door in a poor part of town.

They call them home invasions. Sounds euphemistic, less brutal than the reality. Three masked men break into your house and before you can wake up and defend yourself they’re beating you with a pipe. They tie you to a chair and argue with each other over what they’re going to do with you. It’s only the beginning of the worst night of your life, the last night of your life. All those peaceful years, all that time you wasted worrying about things that would never happen culminating in one night of agony and then darkness forever.

But that doesn’t happen either. It’s just another nightmare, a defensive distraction from the deeper existential horror of aging day after day and never knowing if you’ve made the right choices. Have you wasted your time and is there anything other than wasting time. If there is then how do you know.

When you can’t sleep at 1 in the morning in a bug ridden shanty without an internet connection you realize there’s no such thing as being alone anymore. There’s pervasive loneliness but no solitude. No one goes out into the wilderness without diversions and devices and listens to the plaintive cries of nature and the murmurs of their own soul. We can’t hear the call of conscience over the low roar of netflix.

People often say they like being alone or that they don’t want to be around people. But what they mean is that they don’t want the pressure and discomfort of physical engagement. They’re still going to ensconce themselves in media. They’ll spend a night “alone” listening to podcasts and music, watching tv or movies. A multitude of voices and faces, compressed and digitized, giving them the pleasures of society without the pains.

When people are alone on a friday night they’re consuming human relationships without producing or maintaining them, without a corresponding effort. It’s easier to watch without being watched. It’s easier to judge than be judged. The unfathomable depth of another person generates anxiety while the glimmering surface of a moving image provides relief.

I have no media at home and can only post on my favorite forums and write blog entries when I find time to use the wifi at the cafe where I work. When I’m falling asleep in my chair because I’ve slept 3 hours I try to make a lucid contribution to debates on free speech and reflect on the erosion of personality, self reliance and creativity caused by unrelenting consumption.

Your mind occupies itself when there’s nothing to occupy it. You rouse a dormant ability to imagine, to think and reason for better and worse. Open yourself to concentrated self-torment and disquieting visions but also creative plots and characters, new hopes and possibilities, fresh insights and funny lines.

You have to wrestle with the demons dwelling in your spiritual nether regions rather than stupefying yourself with hours of streaming content crafted by media conglomerates. It can be grueling but there are rewards for percolating in the void.

I broke my toilet. It started running and the sound was driving me crazy so I tried to fix it. A huge mistake. I destroyed the float arm. I didn’t know the name of the part until I broke it. And that’s a lesson in how knowledge and consciousness work. We live as automatons until we encounter a problem and something collapses or threatens us. Then we’re forced to think, learn and make choices.

My dysfunctional toilet reminded me of how little I know about practical matters. I walk around all day contemplating the verities and toying with theories, criticizing, analyzing and speculating in the ether as I take the smooth functioning of our industrial infrastructure for granted. There’s always a simple interface concealing complex innards. We can all push buttons and pull levers, steer wheels and flush toilets but the real stewards of society are those who can take off the screens, lift the hoods and dig into the guts of our machines and keep them running so we can keep our fantasies of competence and brilliance alive.

I’m able to read ancient texts, evaluate arguments and browse message boards because my toilet typically flushes and I don’t have to worry about waste. Cars, buses, trains and planes free me from the burdens of tedious transport, stoves and fridges make cooking and food storage effortless and with all that extra time and brain power I can pretend to be a writer and use electronic devices I could never make or repair to entertain myself and distant readers.

Right now I’d be better off if I were a plumber.

Stranger than fiction but not as interesting

Went up to the house today. Finally met the ex-con working on it. Based on the landlady’s description I was expecting a sluggish, slurring ne’er-do-well. Instead he looked like a normal man. But he talked like a tweaker at the peak of a speed binge.

He said he knew he talked fast but he wasn’t on drugs. Never smoked or drank in his life. He’s been married multiple times and works on houses all over the city. Runs 30 rental properties and has a litter of kids. And he’s killed a man.

I couldn’t keep up with his manic monologue. He owned a store and shot a guy who tried to rob him and spent some time in prison. Admitted to being a bad guy but somehow not in a self deprecating way. He’s also a part time sheriff. There were other details I couldn’t catch. He needed to get carpet from his alcoholic friends. A few days ago he found a crackhead camping in the storage shed behind the house and had to beat him with a baseball bat.

He warned us about transients and told us if we had any problems with anyone to call him and he’d take care of it. I said maybe 10 words. At a normal pace our conversation would have taken 45 minutes. We were done talking in 10. He promised that the house would be done tomorrow. Seems a long shot but if he can work as fast as he can talk then it’s possible.

There’s no carpet and there’s no fridge. A piece of the back wall is still missing and the doors don’t fit the frames, leaving enough space for bugs, vermin, and crafty, persistent hobos to force their way in. At least he put in a stove and fixed the windows. An approximation of progress.

It would be timely if he finished tomorrow because that’s when I start working full time. If the house isn’t ready then I’ll stay with my girlfriends grandmother in the suburbs just outside of the city. Not ideal but not bad.

On one hand it’s unnerving to know that I’ll be living in a space where derelicts and castoffs have been squatting and getting high and shitting in corners. But on the other hand it’s comforting to know that I have the support of a man with no qualms about killing and beating people. So I feel safe enough.

At least I’m not in Texas, floating down a river of toxic sludge and rainwater. Trapped in a car for hours among soaked garbage, sewage, electronics and appliances, my house underwater, my possessions destroyed, looking for loved ones with fear and uncertainty swelling in my chest. I’m not living in the inaccessible wilderness. I’m not living in an urban war zone where I’m dodging bullets every day or constantly changing my route to get around freshly applied police tape.

There’s no threat of hurricanes hammering my shanty or a volcano exploding and blotting out the sun with ash. The earth heaving and rending itself underneath me, causing me to fall into its sweltering bowels. There are no nearby nuclear reactors melting down and microwaving my skin. I won’t wake up one day with a raw protuberance or scales or extra eyes from the fallout.

Terrorists aren’t plotting to bomb anything around me. They’ve probably never heard of this city or state. I won’t bounce off the hood of a Penske truck or have my entrails perforated with nails or scraps of metal. There’s a small chance of a tornado tearing the roof of my house off but I’d probably survive. And black people rob and shoot each other but that’s normal and easy and to avoid as long as you’re not black in the wrong neighborhood.

Indianapolis is a lovely city. It’s more like a giant small town than a city and that suits my current temperament and interests. I like the balance between the urban and the rural, a little sprawl and space with some density and commercial variety. The pollution isn’t bad by city standards.

I’ll be able to bike and walk to work and the grocery store and cut down on the tiresome driving. I’m getting chunky from all the sedentary transportation. It will be nice to lean out again and get back to cooking and moving more regularly.

It’s a pleasant and busy sunday. Even though there’s decent foot traffic in this part of the city, it doesn’t feel hectic and stressful. The midwestern atmosphere has a mollifying effect on my psyche. People are nicer and more patient.

First day working at full time wages and the tips are excellent. It’s a relief to lose myself in labor, to get away from the house and make some money. But late in the shift as I was closing I had a couple of those moments when you can feel the loneliness at the center of existence. I thought about my mom and her drooping posture, her body hunched over a laptop, drowning her evenings in facebook comments. Then I thought about friends I haven’t seen in years. Threads of the past wove themselves into a fabric of loss.

Everything comes undone, breaks apart and recedes from view. At the same time what passes tends to come back. Destruction is the engine of creation and nothing is the mother of something. No contact is close enough; the tenderest touch still affirms separation. Every conversation leaves something unsaid and desire always surpasses its objects. You can’t hold what you love tight enough and you can’t express your love or fear with the precision and sincerity they demand.

But we have to keep working, keep waking up in the early morning as the sun splits the sky. Put croissants in the oven and prepare to sell hundreds of cups of coffee, wipe down counters and exchange pleasantries and smile and laugh and hold back tears and anguish over the bewildering intensity of being alive. We know just enough to be anxious and need distractions and medication to prevent the dread and sadness from swallowing us whole.

It’s a little easier to bear when you’re busy. But it’s never gone, there is no resolution or perfection here.


In the clearing

The humidity has died down and so has my discontent. The air is crisp and light and breathing is easy. I’ve been taking long walks through my neighborhood, trying to see old spots with fresh eyes. When I can enjoy simple pleasures my anxiety vanishes and depression lifts.

And family drama has a way of resolving itself. We have our disagreements, our tension, but the love is deep enough to heal wounds and consistently renew fellowship. When I haven’t been walking I’ve been talking to my mom and sister. I’ll be moving again soon so I’m making the most of the time I have left here.

Not that I’m moving far away. I’ll be about an hour and a half north, living in a shanty and working in a cafe. Similar to my life in dc, only much closer to my family. I’ll also be reunited with my girlfriend, the woman who’s put up with my moodiness and indiscretion. We’ve endured it all in our time together: immaturity, selfishness, moving nearly a thousand miles away from our families, a tumultuous year in an alien land and then another year of separation.

I don’t deserve her love but I’m grateful for it. Just as I don’t deserve the love of my family but I’m also grateful for that. Only recently have I realized the importance of strong relationships with secure foundations developed and strengthened over time. The continuity of our history with others is an essential element of our own psychic soundness .

The stability of our relationships lends solidity and accuracy to our remembrance. A shared past is easier to hold down and memorialize than a discontinuous series of solitary experiences. This is one reason why promiscuity is so destructive and chaotic. The time you spend pursuing random partners to suit fleeting tastes rapidly dissolves, taking your sense of self with it. When you cut people out of your life chasing carnal novelty you lose your external connection to those shared moments and a considerable portion of who you were in those times.

Purely private recollection is dubious and fitful, but when you can confirm and reaffirm experiences with others who’ve been there with you over sustained periods you can put more trust in the past and feel more secure in the future. Our identity isn’t an image we project, a matter of fashion, taste or even belief. It’s the product of what we do for others and how we organically grow alongside them and become parts of a greater whole. Social ties don’t just bind separate people together, they also prevent individuals from shattering into fragmented, schizoid selves.

To be a mature, individual self, you need to be responsible for something outside yourself and capable of wanting the best for others without envy. To grasp this is to be capable of achieving a deeper happiness that isn’t dependent on amusement, aggrandizement and gratification or the transitory pleasures of youth. I haven’t lived this way for long but I feel hopeful about continuing to honor and advance the relationships that give my life security and depth.

There are moments when the storms of my undirected passions subside and I can find contentment in unstructured time with important people. My private ambitions and neuroses melt away and I’m left with the quiet grace and humble beauty of a simple life in good company.

Better to be right than to be free

By a downhill semantic slide, free speech now means evil nazi hate speech. Anyone who defends the right to freely speak your mind is tacitly endorsing slavery and jewnocide. This is political correctness turning tumorous. We live in an overwhelmingly complex society of conflicting interests and incompatible outlooks but we’ve boiled our differences down to nazis against everyone else. Half of us are esoteric hitlerists and klansman and the other half are American marines storming the beaches of Normandy.

There are only two sides now. How convenient for us in these complicated times. I remember when liberals mocked George W. Bush for reducing geopolitical conflict to a comic book battle between good and evil. They saw his simplistic rhetoric as obscurantist and divisive. He was a childish instigator, an imbecilic warmonger wielding contrived oppositions to his political advantage. Now 15 odd years later and Bush’s blundering thundering against a caricatured enemy is a faded memory.

People with the attention spans of chipmunks and the historical sense of goldfish have clarified and condensed their moral vision, distilled and purified their priorities and stumbled upon a single stratagem: silencing and eliminating the nazi threat to our vibrant multicultural America. All the old divisions within the democratic and republican parties have been forgotten.

The tension, hostility and violence caused by identity politics and state and corporate imposed diversity mandates are no longer a problem, no longer up for discussion. Sociological examinations of the effects of scale on human behavior are academic luxuries; consumerism and overpopulation, psychological stress and alienation aren’t relevant factors. We must fight hate in all its forms. We don’t need to think or talk. There’s no time for analysis, no taking a step back. We must act now and purge and vaporize the surging legions of white supremacist nazis in our midst.

Progressives on the right side of history have no need of free speech. They have no appreciation or reverence for it. They don’t want to be free, they want to be correct, to fit in and conform and lose themselves in soothing solidarity. For the prospective totalitarian, free speech is inherently suspicious, a sliver through which subversive and destabilizing truths slip through.

In the same way that the tyrant thinks that people only need privacy if they have something to hide, the maniacal leftist is sure that the only people who care about free speech are hateful bigots. Why would you need free speech if you’re saying the right things? The purpose of speech isn’t exploring and articulating difficult thoughts, it’s confirming and cementing leftist dogma.

The march through the institutions has been so covertly successful that leftists themselves don’t realize where they are and what they have. They continue to pose as beleaguered underdogs as they draw on vast, unchecked corporate power and a hyper-responsive mob mentality to isolate, demoralize and despoil their enemies. They have two primary methods of attack: the first is to single out the offending individual or party and destroy their reputation and livelihood, eliminate their capacity to support or express themselves by restricting access to mediums of communication and exchange. And the second is to become physically violent or threaten with overwhelming, quantitative, blunt force.

Notice that debate, discussion or even tolerance as a begrudging acceptance of fringe and dissident opinions isn’t included in their program of domination. When sensible people argued that tolerating or encouraging repressive religions like Islam endangers the conditions of a tolerant society, leftists were quick to cry bigot. But now they’re finding that aggressive line of reasoning expedient when the targets are white. We can’t give these people the freedom to spew their hatred, they will destroy our peaceful and tolerant societies, we have to act with force and prevent them from taking advantage of our openness. The gutless leftist conveniently finds his backbone when it’s a matter of undermining his own people in his own country.

Last saturday a free speech rally was disrupted and cut short by a thronging, frothing mob. Despite the organizers of the rally repeatedly denouncing white supremacy, the KKK and neo-nazis, everyone else was convinced that it was a neo-nazi party, a celebration of segregation and lynching. The organizers even disinvited two speakers with loose, tenuous ties to the alt-right in an effort to put as much distance between themselves and the left’s punching bags as possible. It wasn’t enough.

The corporate concubines in the media put sneer quotes around the words free speech in their articles, insinuating that the rally was somehow connected to white supremacists and that free speech itself is code for neo-nazi platforming. The depraved media whores telegraphed their approval of radical leftist violence and power through their rankly dishonest coverage of the event.

I couldn’t find a number for how many people attended the free speech rally but it seems there were less than a hundred. There were 40,000 protestors threatening them. Leftists whose whole morality revolves around imbalances and harm and fairness were numb to the glaring, disconcerting discrepancy in power between the attendees of the rally and the protestors. Some tried to say that this was democracy in action, a righteous majority vanquishing a despicable minority.

Except that democracy is a form of government involving elected representatives, legislative bodies and checks and balances on power. What we saw on saturday was mob rule, a perversion of democracy, its mutant, inbred brother. That many people are unable to grasp the difference between formal procedures for determining right and a mass of misdirected savages shutting down innocuous events through intimidation and violence is another sign of the breakdown of education, rationality and attention in our media drenched world.

27 protestors were arrested for disorderly conduct and assault and battery of police officers. But right wing violence is the problem. Only one side is culpable. The left doesn’t even exist, it’s just the white supremacists and bigots and then a unified majority of peaceful, earnest and well meaning egalitarians. We’ll gloss right over 27 people getting arresting for throwing bottles of piss at the police to protest what they insisted on believing was a white supremacist hate rally.

Now when you say you support free speech, peaceful protestors will plaster a swastika on your chest and beat your brain in with a bike lock. They will shut down your blog, your message board, your Facebook and twitter. Choke your electronic voice, isolate you from your audience. And the media will bury your injuries and exclusions in a torrent of greasy rationalizations if they deign to mention you at all. It’s justice served scalding hot from the internet addled automatons of revolutionary terror.

The point of free speech is that we’re all protected because hate and offense are subjective and unstable. Even if you think you currently have a consensus on what is hateful and what isn’t, once the precedent is established that what is hateful may be silenced, the definition of hate itself will begin to shift and slip around.

You want to respect other people’s right to free speech not because you must appreciate or approve of what they say but because there’s no final way of knowing in advance whether or not someone may find something you say hateful or offensive. So that if you offend someone regardless of your intentions, they have no justifiable, legal way of silencing you. In a polite society, it’s one thing to take someone else’s offense at your words as a sign that you may need to rethink your opinions.

But whether or not the person who causes offense reworks his thoughts and words to become more agreeable to others, he still has the right to speak without fear of incurring the wrath of the mob. It’s his personal responsibility to not be an asshole or to reform his speech. It’s not the responsibility or right of disordered masses to physically harm people for what they say and believe.

It also shouldn’t be within the reach of private corporations to police and suppress speech through their consolidated control of communicative infrastructure and information networks. This is another ugly precedent with unsettling implications. Rather than discuss and critically examine what we’re setting in motion, we’re riding a wave of thoughtless enthusiasm for the humiliation and destruction of political opponents.

Once the obvious enemies of peace, love and xirhood have been ground into dust by the jackboot of diversity, new targets of leftist heels will be singled out. Mainstream conservatives, libertarians and centrists will soon find themselves on the receiving end of the nazi charge and the principles they sold out to appease the rabble won’t protect them. They will have brought this disaster on themselves with their cynical opportunism and mindless capitulation. 

It could be also be the sort of thing that just blows over in a few weeks as Trump continues to scandalize and entrance an emotionally empty populace.

A slice of banality

The only thing worse than working is not working. The only thing worse than being away from your family is not being able to escape them. Much of my inner life is a drift from what I have to what I don’t. Scenes from dc have been flashing in my memory. I see U street and the busy stores. The barber shops and cafes, the museums and monuments. And for a moment I miss it. My memory screens the suffocating isolation and loneliness, the alienation and the discomfort and I remember only the thrill of living in an unfamiliar place. It was an adventure and I didn’t take advantage of it.

When you look back you distort the past. The mood of the present influences how you see those old scenes; dissatisfaction with where you are drives you to fantasize about where you were. When I was still in dc I knew I’d end up missing it. I tried to prepare myself for my own psychological wiles but there’s only so much you can do to outwit yourself. There are psychic forces behind the surface of your awareness and they resist executive commands.

Unconscious investments in patterns of thought and feeling are unyielding. The light of consciousness often lacks power to change what it illuminates. So I knew there’d be times when I couldn’t stop myself from missing a place I hated. And now it’s happening and I’m trying to fight it.

Most alternatives to bad things are much worse. I’ve cursed work numerous times, but the exhaustion and stupefaction of thankless toil is nothing compared to wandering the spiritual and emotional wasteland of idleness. It’s true that people fail to live up to their potential when they have to spend most of their day working. We naturally resist burdens and obligations, we squirm and writhe under the yoke of laboring for subsistence.

When we’re working, repeating dull tasks that wear us down and watching irrecoverable hours slip away, we imagine an alternative world of freedom and leisure. In this fantastical mode of existence everyone becomes a better version of themselves. The arts and sciences flourish; everyone discovers and cultivates their true talents.

You might recall Marx’s flight of fancy that inspired a century of revolutionary wood chipper activity: in the coming communist utopia, everyone would be free to do whatever they wanted. You could hunt and farm and fish during the day and then read Kant at night. Men would organically become hunting, farming and fishing philosophers but the cruel and exploitative capitalist system holds them down and prevents them from uncovering their real passions and interests.

There are many oppressive powers, systems and governments and structures, colorless, odorless orders of coercion and control. But even if you were to lighten the weight of the world, man would still be a burden to himself. Without structure, external resistance, stress and conflict we sink into a deep malaise and become prey to perversion and depression. We’re contradictory, inconsistent, lustful and violent in essence, as well as tender, generous, creative and heroic. The societies we build are outgrowths of who we are, they express the turbulent tendencies of our easily corruptible hearts. Our affairs are a mixed bag of good and evil, necessity and accident, crystalline clairvoyance and blundering idiocy.

I gush lost time when I don’t have a job or a set schedule. Whatever I want to do can always be done just a little later so I never get around to it. The sense of urgency I need for creative and fulfilling pursuits disintegrates. Disorientation in time is the condition; I’m tempted to call it distemporalization. Days and weeks mean nothing, minutes lose their value and seconds slip away. Unlimited free time saps motivation and engagement. Boredom and satiety fill the vacuum left by absent duty and obligation.

You think you’re finally going to become that obsessive, prolific artist when you don’t have to work. You’re going to be in your studio or library all day reading, writing, painting or playing the piano. Works of genius will pour forth from your uninhibited mind. But then you get the time and you fill your days with distracted message board reading and masturbation. It becomes clear that work wasn’t holding you back, it was covering up a deeper emptiness.

The internet is the perfect place, pervasive and ever accessible, to forget that you have no real aims in life, no discipline and no attachments. A life of whack-a-mole consumption and electronic morphine drip entertainment has hollowed out your emotional center and fried your synapses. You thought you wanted to be productive, on your own terms in your own way, free from the unrelenting imperatives of an efficiency and profit obsessed capitalist economy.

It’s not the free time that’s an escape from your job, it’s your job that’s an escape from the pressures of consumption and enjoyment. Self organization of time at the precipice of ever beckoning distraction and dissipation is an imposing task. It takes more spiritual strength and resolve to resist wasting an entire day than a few hours in the evening. And nothing about the way we grow up prepares us for focused engagement and unwavering self management.

More important than accomplishments are excuses for why we’ve accomplished nothing. If you don’t have something standing in your way you’ll wander and get lost. We depend on hurdles to teach us how high we’re capable of leaping.

After decades of work, after years of grousing about having to wake up at the same time every morning and do the same thing every day, retirement is a challenge, a new threat to sanity and security. I’ve watched my parents flounder in the wake of their retirement. Suddenly deprived of the routines that anchored their identity, they’ve struggled to fill in the wide open expanse of time and fend off the demons of despair, especially now that their children are all adults. And now I’m here, thirty years apart from them but fighting the exact same enemy: lack of purpose, lack of direction, lack of structure and opposition.

At least we have each other. I’m lucky to have both my parents in my life and I’ll never forget it, but we all need things to do outside the house and away from each other as well.

So recently I rented a crack house in Indianapolis. It was an accident. I have a job at a cafe up there now but I’m still living at home with my parents. My main mission the last two or three weeks has been finding a new place to live. Because I have little money and my credit score is at russian criminal levels, I don’t have many options. Most rental companies do rental checks and I’ve already been denied several times.

I met a woman who was desperate to rent her place, which was dilapidated. She’d dealt with crackheads and delinquents and was happy to find someone with all their teeth. It was a perfect match. The place was in dire need of work but I’m unobservant in practical matters so I didn’t notice the extent of the disrepair.

I payed for the apartment on her promise that it would be ready in a week. She didn’t put a date on the lease so we could fill it in once I was ready to move in. I went up there over the weekend and nothing had been done; it looked even worse than before. There was no refrigerator or a stove. Part of the back wall was missing and it opened up into a shabby storage area with a couch and clothes strewn about. The doors were unlocked and no one was around fixing anything. I felt a combination of dread for my future and embarrassment over the foolishness of my actions.

Why had I rushed into this bad deal and how would I get out of it? The woman had entrusted the repairs to her ex husband, an ex con who had instead used the house as a shelter for his cracked out hobo buddies. The destitution and abjection was palpable. It was an atmosphere of decay and dysfunction and I was going to live in it.

When I called her she apologized and accidentally sent me a text meant for her ex in which she revealed many personal details about their relationship that I didn’t need to know. But I was convinced of her sincerity to fix everything and still desperate myself so I didn’t demand a refund. Now I’m waiting on this daffy woman and her sleazy conman ex to somehow perform a miracle and make this place inhabitable. If they pull it off it will end up being a great deal, as cheap as can be and I can work from there to restore my credit and one day live like a civilized human being in a home not formerly occupied by destructive wastrels.

Living in dc I lamented being 800 miles away from my family and working all the time. I went from seclusion and overwork to living in my parents basement without a job for two months. The change was drastic and now I’m trying to find a balance between familial cohesion and independence, between free time and leisure. I think I’ll manage.

Winding down from a wild week

It’s friday evening and I’m eating at Denny’s, alone. Deep in southern Indiana. The isolation is radiating. There’s a quiet pulse to it.

I’m going to eat a kale salad because Denny’s menu offers healthier options and I’ve been eating nothing but gristle and preserved meats for weeks. Sticks of deep fried starch and slabs of mysteriously cooked hamburger. I take my fruits and greens in powder form and drink 3 cups of acid piss coffee every day. So tonight at Denny’s I’m going to balance my diet with a kale salad, which happens to have four thousand dried cranberries, bacon bits, breaded chicken and a piercingly zesty and sweet dressing all over it.

I’m not done. I get the lava cake and when they bring it to my table it causes a small scene. People at other tables look over and whispers ripple through the diner. I lower my head in shame, unable to share in the exaltation over the pound of chocolate sauce and brownie and ice cream before me.

The lava part of lava cake isn’t an exaggeration. This chocolate sauce is sucked up from the center of the earth. It’s scorchingly hot. I wait for a few minutes and then eat as much as I can until I feel uncomfortable. The waitress forgot to put the dessert on my check but I let her know so she could charge me the correct amount. One of those moments you can beam with the pride of having acted like a moral man.

It’s another scenic evening in southern Indiana. I feel a moment of peace and gratitude for being somewhere quiet and pretty, with rolling hills and woods and melancholic sunsets. Fading light stirs my soul. My drive home is calm except for the unrest in my stomach and intestines from the bizarre meal I just ate.

Fox news was on at the diner. Speaking of unrest. They expect more clashes between protestors at upcoming rallies. Trump fired Bannon. Or Bannon resigned; I’ve already seen conflicting reports.

Anarchists against neo-nazis in the streets. It’s a battle that wrings the sympathy right out of your heart. I can’t imagine having a pleasant conversation with either one of these characters, much less an agreeable rally or protest. Why are they prominent and why is there a tendency to see everyone as these people right now? Why are we clinging to failed european ideologies. The thoughtless rush to apply ill-fitting and historically jarring labels to others and ourselves indicates a disconnect from organic American political traditions and widespread alienation from our culture and history.

If all we can see in each other are communists and fascists then what happened to us as Americans?  We seem to be unaware that we spent a good chunk of the 20th century fighting fascists and then communists. Our historical irony is having found ourselves in the 21st century made up of nothing but fascists and communists. Why did we fight against those forces and what did it mean to defeat them?

Can we not draw on our own history, on our own people? It may be too late. Statues are coming down. History is being rewritten. Why would a black person want to stare at a statue of his oppressor everyday. I wish I felt such a strong connection to my ancestors that I could be oppressed by a statue. Maybe that’s why I used to look to musty europeans for my identity. Europeans don’t know what it’s like to have freed slaves in their streets.

And why do we demand that people disavow?  It’s a strange impulse, a rabid reflex that doesn’t have much practical effect. When I disavow someone I don’t change the other person and I don’t change myself. It has a teeny, gossipy quality as well. What do you think about hitler? He’s so gross. Do you think he’s creepy?  The left is always forcing apologies and disavowals, performing ritual acts of political humiliation; they’re the great speech and thought police, budding if not fully flowering totalitarians. They love superficial difference but crave deep conformity. They’re unblinking, effete fanatics, fainting, weak-kneed crusaders.

When you’re the president you have to be a leading moral light. And there’s nothing more moral right now than suppressing white supremacists. But it’s never suppressive enough. Trump could execute every last neo-nazi with his bare hands and they would still criticize him and question his leadership. Yeah but he didn’t mean it. He just did it to appease us. The left is like that imbalanced, manipulative girlfriend who says you don’t tell her you love her, and then when you do, accuses you of just saying it because you have to.

One of the perks of not having power is that you can remain quiet without offending people. Or at least the offense you cause by remaining quiet never rises to the pitch of pricking the ears of the mob. And one of the benefits of being unknown is that even if you say the wrong things, no one wants to shut you down.

What’s so wrong with being a hateful racist if you’re not threatening or hurting anyone. So what if you want to wave some torches and chant in the summer night. I thought people were liberals. I thought the liberal framework created a neutral social space where even odious ideas could be discussed and debated as long we respect the law as well as the safety and privacy of others. Even neo-nazis have the freedom to gather and protest what they see as injustice. The assault on free speech is another sign of rapidly decaying American political traditions. The stage is being set for more ruthless and searching inquisitions into our beliefs and feelings.

Why are we rooting around in the depths of other people’s hearts for traces of offensive material? Who cares if someone hates if they’re not committing violent acts?

Mainstream republicans and people in general are jumping on the anti-racist train because they think it will absolve them of their own sins of racism and bigotry. As long as the cartoonish neo-nazi is in the limelight then they can buy themselves some time. We condemn hatred and racism and the nazis. See we’re good people too. 

But once the furor over the fuhrer dies down the left will go back to castigating systemic racism, implicit bias and other nebulous pseudo concepts that heighten paranoia, intensify distrust and increase their own power. And mainstream republicans won’t be safe just because they disavowed the nazis, just because they made a grand show of their disgust for the glaring bigotry of economically abandoned white men. They’ll still be racist, they’ll still need reeducation if not corporal punishment. Liberals too, especially if they’re white. There’s no white soul so pure that progressives can’t find a stain of racism on it.

They will ruin you financially, they will destroy your reputation and your business. Silence and exclude you unless you’re marching in lockstep with their maniacal progressive agenda. Even then your livelihood and safety will depend on your identity. Even what you say might not be enough.

But I don’t mean to wallow in fear or despair; there’s cause for hope and optimism. Because the left has a habit of overextending themselves and they’re doing it again. Ordinary people are becoming more aware of the freakish, elitist forces arrayed against them. They don’t want to live their lives under the constant threat of purges and show trials and liquidations. Americans aren’t communists; the majority of us have an instinctive contempt for it. We want to live in peace, love our families, worship God, have healthy children, work and create and say what we want when it suits us.

The removal of statues seems inevitable if you buy into leftist media hype but most people are against it. Those who call for the erasure of Washington and Jefferson from our history make themselves look ridiculous to all but the most fervent of ideologues. We have to stay strong and remember that opposing the left and their destructive tantrums doesn’t make us nazis or fascists. There is a political center and a moderate majority.

And life always goes on. There’s happiness, fulfillment and peace to be found outside the arena of ideological opposition. I have to remember not to pin all my hope and joy on the turbulent world of politics. That would make me some kind of progressive totalitarian.

The devil went down to Virginia

A young man drove his car into a crowd of “counter-protestors” and killed a woman at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on saturday. He’s a nazi and so is every other white person who marched to protest the effacement of history. The south will never stop paying for its transgressions.

White people are not allowed to gather, march or speak for themselves. When blacks burn their own neighborhoods to the ground, teams of sociologists and experts on racism rationalize and defend their destructive behavior. It’s the lack of economic opportunity, it’s the legacy of racism, it’s living in a system of suppression. They are only out for justice, they are spontaneously protesting an unjust order.

But when disaffected white men organize themselves and express their anger, it’s the rise of the fourth reich, it’s the bigoted whining of privileged losers. The social and economic causes of their behavior and feelings fall away. It’s just rage, racism and bigotry. A particular problem that white people have, a tendency to hate and exclude that isn’t a universal feature of all people everywhere all throughout history.

All of society must unite in condemning racism as the worst of evils, the greatest of abominations. We must all act as exasperated, horrified and sickened as possible to send the message that having a white identity or attachment to history is the highest crime imaginable.

Failure to show sufficient disgust and outrage will be taken as a sign of support for nazi crimes and white supremacy. You will be fired from your job, spat upon, punched in the face, beaten with baseball bats, harassed and tormented every day of your life unless every tweet and facebook post you make is a groveling, tear slicked apology for and renunciation of your white identity. Your wife will leave you and your children will be taken from you unless you personally pull down statues of confederate generals and spray paint fuck trump on every available building surface and sidewalk.

James Fields was a confederate nazi terrorist. There will be no sociologists or white grievance experts to provide a nuanced explanation for why he was driven(ha) to commit an act of haterism. He’s white, so his lowly position in society and his resentment are his fault. Or his actions are ultimately the fault of the fascists and their far, far, far right wing rhetoric. It’s the alt-right and their appropriation of leftist style identity politics that’s fomenting hatred and ethnic conflict. And finally, this whole debacle is the fault of Trump because he didn’t know who David Duke was in an interview.

Trump not immediately condemning David Duke and dancing to the disavowal tune of the disingenuous media was the equivalent of a megaphone endorsement of white supremacy. He might as well have sig heiled and said that birth of a nation is his favorite movie. Never mind the fact that Trump ran his campaign from the beginning on a platform of populist nationalism and never named his ethnic constituents or attempted to divide americans from each other. He’s still the neo nazi president, the white supremacist dog whistler.

Another curious inconsistency is the lumping together of white supremacy and nazism, as if the nazis weren’t responsible for the deaths of millions of white people. A genuine nazi isn’t exactly a “white” supremacist but rather a german supremacist if not something else all together. But such a subtle distinction is lost on our educated, right thinking classes. If an American male of indeterminate white ethnic stock waves a nazi flag, you might suspect his nazi allegiance isn’t deep and that he is suffering from a serious form of mental illness. That would be a fair, reasonable suspicion. But the media are cynically using men with mental illnesses as props in their campaign to smear Trump and anyone who disagrees with their progressive propaganda.

Whites will have no collective voice unless they’re calling for themselves to be silenced. They will not ask questions or raise concerns over the ethnic makeup of the country or sneering attitudes towards our history. There is no room for complexity, ambiguity or finesse when it comes to white interests. There are no white interests not synonymous with an anachronistic, conceptually dissonant melange of nazism and white supremacy.

Trump just gave a press conference where he bit back at the media for refusing to denounce leftist violence. He called out the racists and nazis on the far right, but he also mentioned the guilt of the alt-left for charging at the protesters on saturday. Once again the press is exasperated, incredulous, beside themselves. They can’t believe Trump would call the enemies of nazis the alt-left. To the media whores, there’s no such thing as an alt-left. There are only the evil nazis and then the brave resisters and counterprotesters.

But the American people have been able to see with their own eyes how every Trump rally or speech by any vaguely conservative figure has been disrupted or shut down by organized leftist thugs. Every time normal Americans get together to celebrate making America great again, groups like antifa threaten and assault them.

Normal Americans who don’t dabble in nazi symbolism or cross burning are routinely pelted with rocks, turds and bottles of piss; they’re punched and kicked and pepper sprayed; they’re attacked with gas and acid while the police do nothing, while mayors and university presidents stand idly by and fail to use their institutional power to protect conservatives and moderates from the roaming, vicious hordes of leftists whipped into a frenzy by careless, instigative rhetoric and slander.

In the last few days the mendacious media has been saying that white supremacists and Nazis are Trump’s base. It’s a ridiculous, hysterical assertion. I was in Washington DC during the inauguration. I saw Trump’s base. They’re normal Americans, middle class families. Grandparents, moms and dads and children. They didn’t come to DC to celebrate white supremacy or deny the holocaust. They came to celebrate a renewed hope for America, for business, for manufacturing, for decency, safety and order.

And in their zeal to defame and destroy Trump at any cost, the media are desperately trying to recast this normal American support for a secure middle class way of life as white supremacy. You might have noticed that no one has been talking about Russia for the last few days. You might have noticed that the collusion, treason and impeachment talk has died down. Last week Trump was a traitor, a Russian lackey, he’d obstructed justice and colluded. Now he’s back to being a racist and a bigot. Remember when he was literally Hitler?

Trump had to become slightly less literally Hitler to collude with Russians. Then he became literally Hitler again because David Duke showed up to a rally. Trump blamed the nazis, but because he also said that leftists have played a role in instigating violence he’s an off the rails racist pandering to his massive base of white supremacists.

The charges of the press are incoherent and insincere. Their tactics are confused and ineffective. This incident will blow over and we can get back to taunting them about their failing witch hunt over collusion with Russia. Trump will resume his efforts to make America great again through trade deals, deportations and immigration legislation.

Much ado

There are days when I can feel the emptiness of my mind. I don’t think, I regress to a vegetative state. It’s all digestion and no contemplation. Hours pass without purpose and I’m unable to stop my focus from fading. And I wonder how people who have to use their minds to stay alive manage those braindead days. Maybe out of necessity they don’t have them. My existence is secure without my labor, cunning or courage. So I drift and dwell, sift through crumbs of awareness.

It took me until 5 pm today to write a single paragraph. When I had nothing else to do all day. It took hours of meandering and walking and drinking espresso to gather up the resolve and attention to write a paragraph about nothing. The more time you have the less you do. But then I’ve never had the right amount of time. It’s always either not enough or too much. I tell myself I can do it later. There’s always later until there isn’t.

Rationally I know my time is limited and that every day is a day closer to death and nothingness. But it’s as if there’s another part of me that also knows it won’t die. Or that death isn’t the end and I won’t be swallowed up by the all consuming eternal night. So there’s no real hurry. Whatever I’m working on or whatever I want to work on can wait until after I’m dead.

If I died at the end of this sentence I’d have failed in my singular artistic purpose: to write the perfect sentence. And at the outer reach of my ambition, to write the perfect paragraph. I don’t know what that perfect paragraph will be about, but it will flow like no paragraph ever has. It will unfold itself like falling drapery. My perfect paragraph will have the perfect metaphor and the perfect rhythm. It will glide without slipping. Anyone who reads this paragraph will comprehend it on the first read but will want to read it again and again. Just to follow the contours of the sentences. To feel the smooth, rounded edges and the tight links between each sentiment.

These paragraphs I’m writing now are placeholders: better writing is to come. They sit between where I was and where I want to be. I want to believe I’m a better writer than I was two years ago, or when I was an academic upstart and writing far beyond my comprehension. I used to believe that the more clauses the better the sentence. The more obscure and multi-syllabic the word the smarter the writer. But now I now better than that and have renounced my sesquipedalian ways.

At least I still have a couple friends in town. Unpretentious, comical people. A 50 year old former fireman and his son who’s a magician. They live together in one of those generic apartment complexes with the identical floor plans and the thick grey carpets. Bare white walls and mismatched furniture. A modern art installation: piles of plastic water bottles and crumbled up bags of fast food. Streaks of ash on the cheap wooden table. The son smokes cigarettes and the father eats plates of stacked pork fritter sandwiches.

They aren’t healthy or educated but they’re funny and fun to be around. I need more fun, as dumb as that might sound. I spend all my time thinking about the decline of the west, racial politics, what heidegger said and then what plato said, the destruction of public space and the erosion of familial networks. And that’s on top of personal drama, stewing over guilt from past actions and worrying about the future. When I turned 30 I still felt young, as though I were still in my twenties and could afford to wait to do whatever I wanted. But there’s something about being 31 that removes that complacency.

I look in the mirror and see a man who’s aged. A man with a few years behind him, not quit decaying but not fresh either. I have premonitions of the problems that will haunt my autumn and winter years. My knees will shatter someday in a freak squatting accident. My hearing will diminish until I’m locked in a world of silence. And my skin will sag and crinkle, distorting my features. I’m a little slower and weaker than I used to be, but it’s nothing compared to what’s in store.

So until I reach full decrepitude and my organs wither and my brain undergoes liquid putrefaction, I want to laugh and enjoy good times and good health. And my friends are instrumental for achieving this aim. My portly pal has lost his looks but he’s jollier than ever. He has a son and a roof over his head. He’s unlocked a kind of cynical serenity, a freedom from ambition and the torments of desire. Neurosis is nonexistent.

It helps when you’re naturally hilarious. You can get so fat you’re unrecognizable to people who knew you twenty years ago but as long as your wit stays sharp you can always entertain yourself and others. You can distract yourself from the steadily accumulating infirmities that make up the latter half of your life.

Last night I went over to their shabbily decorated place and we waited for another friend to bring us weed. We filled the hours with dumb banter and insults. We piled into his rusted, broken down chevy cavalier and went to steak and shake. It was disgusting and they got my order wrong. It was still great. And then the weed arrived.

His magician son rolled blunts and we smoked and talked and laughed well into the night. I lost track of time and finally realized it was after midnight. I tend towards isolation so I have to make an effort to be around people who make me feel good to be alive. As though life might be worth living after all.