Thursday, May 28, 2015


Is it because they feel they're leaving something undone that they regret leaving the world? I'm leaving everything undone. I've done nothing of what I'd hoped to do. Not Je ne regrette rien, but Je regrette tout.


I had another dream last night. In it, I was old; as old as I am now.  I’ve never been old in a dream before.

She was in the dream, too, as old as I am; and sick. I woke to find she had died in her sleep.

I'd been awakened by banging on the front door. It wasn't the police this time, but her 'sisters' (aka the Wasilevish sisters; she had no sisters, but Agatha used to refer to her as her ‘fourth daughter’).

The Wasilevish sisters died before she did, but in my dream they were all alive. They told me they'd been calling her for several days, with no reply, so finally they came over to see her. I led them upstairs and showed them her body lying in the bed.

It was a wish fulfillment dream. In it she died peacefully in her sleep, in her own bed at home, not in a hospital, butchered by an incompetent doctor like a pig in an abattoir.

I wonder if I’m still alive because I sometimes forget she’s dead, and expect the door to open and her to enter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Today I read Laure Murat’s The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon.

I was disappointed. It's little more than a footnote to Michel Foucault’s equally francocentric Madness and Civilization.

Murat concludes, not surprisingly, that harsh social circumstances drive people mad (at the height of the Terror, people who had witnessed executions began imagining they had been guillotined themselves, and were headless). Also not surprisingly, the definition of madness changed as society changed (deviance is always defined by what is defined as the norm). 

Some people’s madness was cured by the revolution, when the prognosis for civilization still seemed more hopeful because of the revolution; and later some people’s madness was exacerbated by the revolution, when their faith in revolution had given way to disillusion and revolution seemed to them no more than violence and disorder.  

I had hoped the book would discuss what it means for someone to believe he is Napoleon, or any of the other historical figures with whom the mad are prone to identify. 

I don't understand how anyone, even a madman, can believe he is someone else. It’s not the same as believing he is not the person he could be, or should be - we all believe that, to the extent that we know ourselves, or think we know ourselves - but how little sense of self must someone have to believe he is not himself at all, but some historical figure whom he knows only from books?    

But how many people believe in anything - beginning, as Descartes did, with one’s self? 

I’ve always been interested in what people claim to believe. Most people have no beliefs of their own, and claim to believe what they think they should believe, or what they think others believe. 

I’ve had debates with people, on the rare occasions when I’ve met people capable of debate, about what they claim to believe. These debates usually ended with them admitting that the things they claim to believe are absurd and/or their behavior demonstrates they do not in fact believe what they tell themselves and others they believe. But having admitted this, they then continue to claim they believe what they just admitted they do not believe, thereby demonstrating that they actually believe nothing and merely say whatever they think others (myself included) expect them to say. 

It’s because they believe nothing that most people can be made to believe anything given the right circumstances. It’s because they are ready to believe anything that they refuse to question what they claim are their beliefs. They know their beliefs will not survive questioning.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I’ve started dreaming again. Or rather, I’ve started remembering my dreams again.

For the past week or so I’ve awakened every morning aware that I’d had a dream, and she was in it; but I remembered nothing more.

It wasn’t that in these dreams I thought she was alive. I always know in my dreams that I’m dreaming. It’s when I’m awake that I sometimes forget she’s dead and find myself expecting the door to open and her to enter.

But this morning I remembered something more of last night’s dream.

It was a combination of the Tower of Babel, the Vanity Fair and the back-in-school dreams.

I usually have the back-in-school dream when I’m learning something. What I learned in this dream is that I'm lost, and no one can or will help me find my way.

I’m wearing a leather jacket and boots, as I did when I was in college. I stood out from the crowd, as I intended to.

The words ‘but Japanese aren’t supposed to stand out from the crowd’ enter my head.

Yesterday was Memorial Day. There was one television program after another celebrating WWII. I didn’t watch any of them, but I do remember an ad for one that piqued my curiosity. It was advertised as celebrating the contribution of Asian-Americans to the war effort. I wondered how it dealt with the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans.

I watched a Japanese film online yesterday. It was lovely as a haiku; and filmed, I noticed, the same year as the Nanking Massacre.

In the dream I am back in school, where I stand out from the crowd like a nonconformist in Japan, or an Asian-American in conformist America.

European languages are fairly easy for me to learn. I used to speak French, German and Spanish like a native (or so my business contacts told me), but not nonEuropean languages. So I’ve chosen Japanese as my language elective.

I go from classroom to classroom, trying to find the Japanese language class, but no one will tell me where it’s being held. I have the feeling they don’t want me to know, that good Americans shouldn’t want to know such things.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


We're told that everyone fears death, that everything we used to call civilization we created so that something of us would survive. I therefore examine myself from time to time, as communicants of the Roman church are told to examine themselves, to confirm that I’m not deceiving myself; and I’ve never found any evidence that I am deceiving myself (at least not about this). I really don't fear death.

It’s not that I don't fear death because I’m self-destructive and want to die. It’s not that I hate the world and the other people in it - all those people who do hate it and themselves, and are destroying themselves and the world. I still love the world, or what's left of it; but I’ve accepted its death as I have my own. I did my best to save it, and my best wasn’t good enough because so many other people are doing their best to destroy it. I've done nothing. I am nothing, or soon will be.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


What distinguishes us from other animals is our egotism.

They are content to eat, sleep and fuck. We demand a reason for living.

Our short lives are not enough, so we created eternal beings in whose service our lives would have meaning.

We told ourselves that we did not create these wonderful beings - it was they who created us, in their image - and serving them distinguishes us from other animals, makes us superior to them.

We told ourselves that these beings created the world for us, and sought to understand what their purpose was in doing so.

We created many gods, because we couldn't agree on the nature of these beings whom we created in our image and pretended created us in theirs. We understood their nature as little as we understood our own. Nevertheless we went to war in their defense, to prove to ourselves that ours was the one true god.

All wars are religious wars, even in this ostensibly irreligious age. Only our gods have changed. We no longer worship beings greater than ourselves, our ideal selves. We no longer hold ideals, or the people who have them, sacred. We worship things.

Or we try to.

It's impossible to forget everything we've learned about nature and human nature - everything that made us what we used to call civilized, human - and become savages again, worshipping idols of steel as our ancestors worshipped idols of stone. But we try.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Justin called again today.

I let him talk a while -  or rather, I let him read from what was obviously a script he’d prepared – until I became exasperated and started interrupting him every few sentences, asking him to elaborate on something he’d said/read. I was trying to get him to say something of his own instead of reading from his script and, to my surprise, he did. We ended up having something resembling a conversation.

It was during that conversation that I realized Justin is my friend.

I’ve been annoyed that he keeps calling me after I said I wished I had some intelligent conversation. The obvious implication was that I didn’t find his conversation intelligent. I hoped he would take the hint and stop calling me. Instead he suggested we have an intelligent conversation about artificial intelligence.

Computer science is supposedly his area of expertise – he claims to be working on the development of artificial intelligence – but when we began discussing artificial intelligence, it quickly became apparent to both of us that I knew more about it than he did.

This so-called discussion ended when he emailed me what he claimed was an article he’d written about artificial intelligence.

The article was written in a style so unlike the way he speaks that I became suspicious. What made me most suspicious was that it was written from an American’s viewpoint. It even began with the words “We Americans”.

I cut-and-pasted 'his' article from the email into an online search engine and within minutes found the article Justin had plagiarized. He had changed nothing, not even the “We Americans”.

Insulted that he thought I could be fooled so easily, I sent him an email bawling him out. I assumed I’d hear no more from him after that, but to my surprise and disgust he came crawling back like a whipped dog.

He doesn’t send me emails any more. Now he only telephones. I’m sure that’s to prevent me from
cutting-and-pasting what he says into a search engine and finding the actual source of what he claims are his words, as I found the article he plagiarized.

He's gone to all this trouble – preparing scripts to read before telephoning me - because he doesn’t think anything he could say would interest me (unfortunately for both of us, he’s right), telephoning me when it’s inconvenient for him (after midnight in Bangalore) because it's convenient for me – because I expressed a desire for intelligent conversation. He's pathetic, but he really is my friend. I'm pathetic, because he's the only friend I have.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Justin telephoned me again today, as he does every three or four days now; and as he was speaking I realized something that makes me wonder yet again what satisfaction he gets from our conversations.

I already knew he prepares for our conversations by researching whatever subject he intends to suggest we talk about; but I didn’t realize until today that he doesn't just make notes. He writes scripts.

Until today I’d assumed, when I bothered to think about it, that Justin speaks the way he does – in long sentences filled with details and statistics, and long pauses after each time I interrupt him with a comment or a question – because he has a very good, but not a perfect, memory. I thought he had all these facts in his head, but can’t always summon them up immediately, and sometimes has to pause and wait for them to come to him. I now realize that he’s not remembering what he’s read. He’s actually reading it to me. He writes a script, and when I interrupt what he’s saying/reading with a comment or a question, he falls silent because I made him lose his place in that script.

I didn’t realize this until now because I don’t usually bother to think about Justin.

Why does he keep calling me? Is he one of those people who don’t know how to end a relationship? Apparently I’m one of those people.

At least he no longer makes Uriah Heepish expressions of gratitude to me for getting him his job. When I asked him to stop doing it, he asked what he could do instead to show his gratitude. I told him he could provide me with intelligent conversation, and this is his attempt to do that, so I have no one to blame for this situation but myself. 

He feels he has nothing interesting to say (and now that I know him better, I agree with him), so he reads me what others say – even plagiarizing them, pretending their words are his until I caught him doing it and told him to stop. I’d feel sorry for him if I were still capable of feeling sorry for anyone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


In all the years I’ve been writing this, no one else has read a word of it. But I write for myself, not others.

There is no one with whom I can share my thoughts, because most people have no thoughts to share.

Most of the people who are now considered wise are barely literate. They say things their admirers assume must be profound because they can’t understand them. But they're merely incoherent.

These pundits and their admirers are too ignorant to know the ideas they present as new and original were said before, and said better. But now that I’m old, I too forget who said what in the past. I even forget what I said in the past.

I return here from time to time, when I feel more than usually lonely, to read what I said in the past; and usually I find it more interesting than anything I say now; certainly more interesting than anything others say to me. But when I read what I said in the past, I also become depressed – more depressed than usual – at how stupid I’ve become. I’m nearly as stupid now as most people. I hope I have the courage to kill myself soon

Saturday, May 2, 2015


I spent my life trying to learn how to live. Now I’m ready to die, and I still don’t know how to live. I’m ready to die because I don’t know how to live.

I once read that, when we’re sixteen, we think we know everything and our parents know nothing. When we grow up, we’re surprised to discover how much our parents have learned during the intervening years.

What we supposedly discover, when we become adults, is that our parents were wiser than we were; but when we were children, we weren't wise enough to know it.

Everything we thought we knew when we were sixteen was wrong, and everything our parents told us was right. Adults know how to live better than we do, but we don’t know that until we become adults ourselves.

The belief that there are people who know how to live better than we do, so instead of trying to learn it ourselves we need only listen to and obey them, seemed absurd to me even when I was a child.

I never thought, when I was sixteen, I knew everything, as children supposedly do – I was always painfully aware of how little I knew – but I was sure I knew more than most adults did, because most of the adults I knew were Americans; but I never thought I knew more than my parents did. My mother, a 'high school dropout', knew more about how to live than most college-educated Americans did.

I never expected to know everything, but I tried to learn as much as I could - unlike most Americans, who believe, as children supposedly do, that although they may not know everything, they know everything worth knowing.

At sixteen I felt that, although I hadn’t learned everything, I’d learned enough to make my way through the world without making any disastrous mistakes. At seventeen I realized I was wrong.

Ever since then I’ve felt like a stranger in the world. Not a stranger in the USA, because I was a foreigner, but a stranger in the world - although the fact that the world was becoming Americanized probably has much to do with that feeling.

I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, because I read many fictions in which a seemingly ordinary person who felt as I did finds himself in an extraordinary world he’s never seen before, but feels at home there, and discovers it’s his real home.

Stories of people who at first seem ordinary, but are eventually revealed to be extraordinary beings from another better world, used to take the form of religious myths; but in our postreligious age extraterrestrials replaced gods and angels.

This feeling that we’re not like other people, that we’re from another better world (or that someone we respect comes from another better world) must be common, if not universal. It obviously played a part in the rise of what we used to call religion.

And not only religion.

The world seems mad to us. We do what we must in order to survive in it, without knowing why. But those whom we called wise taught us that the world, which seems chaotic, is in reality ordered. What we used to call religion, and now call science, are two stages in our attempt to understand that order, and live in harmony with it.

Religion taught us that this mad world into which we're all born, and in which other animals still live, doing what they must in order to survive in it without knowing why, is an illusion. We are not ordinary animals because, unlike other animals, we know it’s an illusion. Human reason tells us that, behind this mad world lies another better world that's our real home. Knowing that kept us sane, or what we used to call human.

What we used to call morality and/or humanity consists of behaving as though that better world is not an ideal, but real, at least for us; more real than this inhuman world in which other animals do what they must without knowing why. In our world reason enables us to know and choose how to live. Naturally we choose to live better because in that better world we are better
Now we’re losing faith in that ideal world, or rather in our ability to live in it, just as we've already lost faith in its ruler, or rather in those who ruled us in his name.

Now some people fear religion while others fear science, and for the same reason: both are attempts to know the world and our place in it, and people are afraid of knowing both. They know they’ve done terrible things, and fear it’s because they’re terrible people and this mad world, which seems to them a terrible place, is their real home.

I never believed the ideal world is more real, at least for us, than the world of other animals. I always believed there's only one world, and I felt at home in it. It's the world that humans made in which I feel like a stranger.

I used to think that, as I grew older, I’d become accustomed to the madness of the made world, and would eventually feel at home in it as well. Instead it appeared madder and stranger the older I grew.

Instead of discovering, when I became an adult, that I had more in common with other adults than I’d imagined when I was sixteen, I found the difference between us was greater than I’d imagined. Adults who seemed childish to me when I was a child, but who I could deal with as adults deal with willful children, by humoring them, became more willful, more difficult to deal with, as I grew older. Now, instead of behaving like a sulky child having a temper tantrum, they behave like a rabid animal.

They threaten to destroy each other, themselves and the world; not as a willful child threatens to kill itself by holding its breath until it suffocates if it doesn’t get its way, but as a rabid animal kills itself rather live in torment.