Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Hundred and Twenty Five



I’m wasting what little time I have left.

Of course I am. We’re all wasting our time. None of us is doing what we should be. But this assumes there’s something we should be doing.

Camus said there’s only one serious philosophical question: is life worth living? Once we decide what we should be doing, we have a reason for living and suicide is no longer an option.

What should I be doing? This question troubled me when I was a child. I knew that, in theory, something is better than nothing; but in practice, knowing that if this world should ever become too terrible for me to bear, I could end it, always consoled me.

The pain of others always troubled me more than my own because I could endure my own, but I could do nothing to help them endure theirs. I sat by the dying and watched them cling to lives I wouldn’t want, and decided my mission would be to help others, making their lives worth living so their deaths wouldn’t be meaningless. But I failed.

Worst of all, I failed the person I loved most. She trusted me, but I couldn’t save her from the doctors who butchered her.

I knew, when I was a child, that this world is terrible. And now it's worse. The day is coming when the living will envy the dead. Better to die young. Best is never to have been born.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

One Hundred and Twenty Four

Another false alarm.

The doctor said I’d have to be hospitalized if my condition didn’t improve. I have no intention of dying in hospital, so once again I prepared to kill myself; but my condition is improving. I’ve even begun taking daily walks again.

But while my body soldiers on, my brain continues dying. I felt the prefrontal cortex go numb after she died, and now the top of my head, the cortex , feels numb.

Leonard is also preparing for death, sending family memorabilia he’s saved over the years to relatives  who probably throw it away.

He keeps saying he has only two more years. He doesn’t want to die alone, at home, so he intends to move in with one of his relatives.

Family means everything to him, but I doubt his relatives feel the same, so I wondered if any of them would agree to take him in. I underestimated him.

He’s chosen to live with his nephew Eric, who recently lost his job, his house and his wife, and is now working as a bartender and living in a room above the bar. I’m sure Eric will jump at the chance to share living expenses with an uncle who receives two pensions: one from the city, and another from the navy.

I don’t want to die alone any more than Leonard does, and considered suggesting to him that he move in with me (or I with him). Apparently he anticipated this, because lately he’s been making disparaging remarks about friendship. Friends can’t be relied on, he says. Only family.

Piecemeal the body dies, and the timid soul
has her footing washed away, as the dark flood rises.

We are dying, we are dying, we are all of us dying
and nothing will stay the death-flood rising within us
and soon it will rise on the world, on the outside world.

We are dying, we are dying, piecemeal our bodies are dying
and our strength leaves us,
and our soul cowers naked in the dark rain over the flood,
cowering in the last branches of the tree of our life.

We are dying, we are dying, so all we can do
is now to be willing to die, and to build the ship
of death to carry the soul on the longest journey.

A little ship, with oars and food
and little dishes, and all accoutrements
fitting and ready for the departing soul.

Now launch the small ship, now as the body dies
and life departs, launch out, the fragile soul
in the fragile ship of courage, the ark of faith
with its store of food and little cooking pans
and change of clothes,
upon the flood's black waste
upon the waters of the end
upon the sea of death, where still we sail
darkly, for we cannot steer, and have no port.

There is no port, there is nowhere to go
only the deepening black darkening still
blacker upon the soundless, ungurgling flood
darkness at one with darkness, up and down
and sideways utterly dark, so there is no direction any more

and the little ship is there; yet she is gone.
She is not seen, for there is nothing to see her by.
She is gone! gone! and yet
somewhere she is there.
Nowhere!

And everything is gone, the body is gone
completely under, gone, entirely gone.
The upper darkness is heavy as the lower,
between them the little ship
is gone
she is gone.

It is the end, it is oblivion.



Monday, June 19, 2017

One Hundred and Twenty Three

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.
However the sky grows dark with invitation cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flagstaff
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

Non timor mortis conturbat me. 

Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites
The costly aversion of the eyes from death
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.

Non timor mortis conturbat me.

Monday, May 29, 2017

One Hundred and Twenty Two

This morning I made an online search for articles related to Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia. It led me to articles about something called ‘homoerotic mourning.

For Freud, love is the desire to possess the beloved as a predator possesses its prey, based on the mistaken belief that the beloved is as necessary to the lover's existence as food is. He claimed we all fall in love with a woman who reminds us of our mother because she was our source of nourishment when we were infants, and falling in love as adults infantilizes us.

What most people call love is an illusion based on a naïve overestimation and idealization of the beloved. In reality all women are alike, which perhaps explains why Freud appears to have had an affair with his wife’s sister.

Or his affair may have been an example of the Rachel/Leah illusion, in which a man marries a woman and then discovers, too late, that she’s not the ideal woman he imagined. The man usually blames his wife for deceiving him, when it’s his naïveté that’s responsible for his mistake.

A woman, according to the old saying, marries a man hoping he’ll change (i.e., will mature) and a man marries a woman hoping she won’t change (i.e., will remain his infantile ideal).

Ironically Freud claimed it's women who are childlike, and therefore untrustworthy. 

Beautiful women are especially dangerous because they’re narcissists, and love themselves more than they do any man. But she was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen outside of a movie (and she didn’t have a key light), and as good as she was beautiful, which is why everyone who knew her loved her.

Adolfo was no exception. “You don’t understand her the way I do,” he told me, “because you’re an American, and she’s a typical European woman”. His naïveté amused me because he was a psychiatrist, and therefore should have understood her (and me, and himself), better (To me the otherness of women seems insignificant compared with the otherness of Americans).

Women in a patriarchal society are constrained by the expectations of men; but European women learn how to play the game, and manipulate men’s rules to their advantage, while American women want to change the rules. I enjoyed watching her because she did it so well, and because I also enjoyed manipulating the rules.

Beauty gives a woman power, but it also limits what she can do, because it arouses expectations in others; and when we don’t conform to the expectations of others, they blame us, not their own naïveté, for deceiving them.

Freud said mourning is the natural process by which we deal with the loss of a beloved. Melancholia is pathological because it never ends.

She wasn't and isn't necessary to my existence. I can live without her, but I’m a different person without her; and I don’t like the person I’ve become. I mourn the person I was with her; therefore I suffer from what the articles call ‘homoerotic mourning’ - the loss of my ideal self, the person I could be and should be.

Most people eventually come to believe this ideal self is not lost to them, but is embodied in someone they love as they can’t love themselves.  This explains not only hero worship, but also homosexual love, which seems to me as much a mistake as Freud thought heterosexual love. All three overestimate and idealize the beloved.

Freud was almost right in saying we love the beloved as a predator loves its prey, because the only way we can possess the beloved is by making her (or him) part of us: emulating her, and making her virtues ours. In loving her I loved myself, or that part of me which most men learn to suppress in order to become men as our society defines manhood. But I can’t love myself without her; or rather I have no incentive, no desire, to do so without her.

Freud was also almost right in saying all women are alike. All women - and all men, too – are alike, despite their differences, in that all deserve to be loved. But not by me. I used to love them all because in her I saw what we all could and should be. Now I love no one.

The articles are mostly written by genderqueer authors who claim most people suffer from homoerotic mourning because our society doesn't allow men to love other men, and women to love other women, sexually. It seems to me that, on the contrary, our society doesn't allow men to love other men, and women to love other women, except sexually. 

There's a place in heterosexual society for homosexuals, just as there's a place in patriarchal society for women, so long as they masochistically embrace their inferiority. Their inferiority confirms the superiority of (heterosexual) men, as well as the danger of love in a society based on war.

Heterosexuality and homosexuality are equally perverse when the only way we're allowed to express our love for each other is sexual (especially when that sex is sadomasochistic). Sex is what we settle for when we aren’t allowed to love each other; therefore most of us learn to live without love. Fearing that if we allowed ourselves to love others, we would masochistically embrace our inferiority to them, makes us unable to love anyone, including ourselves.

Society expects all of us, men as well as women, to conform to our respective social roles. Our pundits devote their attention to gender roles because it allows them to ignore the others.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

One Hundred and Twenty One

Why are we so cruel? Other animals hunt and kill each other because they must, because life must feed on life. Only we humans hunt and kill for the pleasure of it, the schadenfreude.

I assume it’s because of our neotony. The young of other species play at hunting, play with their captured prey before killing it. But by the time they’re adults they’ve mastered the art of hunting, and take death seriously. It remains a game for us because we remain children.

It’s because we’re children, conscious of our helplessness, that we turn some into our servants so we won’t have to work, and others into our livestock so we won’t have to hunt. We do it not because we must, as other species do, in order to survive, but because killing and/or enslaving others merely because we can allows us to forget how helpless we really are.

We respected our slaves and our livestock when we still recognized our kinship, our common weakness. That respect was one source of religion. We deified the totem animals who died so that we might live, just as we did our ancestors. But as we seemed to grow strong, we lost respect for everyone and everything that seemed weak.

Natural philosophers studied the world, hoping to know their creator through his creation. Finding no evidence of him, they did not conclude that he didn’t exist. They concluded instead that he existed only in us, brahman to our atman. Only we are immortal, as he is. Other animals are avatars of god in the east, and in the west machines he invented for our convenience, pawns in a game god plays with man, his only natural child (they include those animals who look like us, and appear to be as human as we are, but do not worship god as we do). Using them as god intended is not cruel because they are mere automatons, as Descartes said, and do not suffer as we do.

This world is what we’ve made it. It seems cruel to us because we’re cruel to each other, and to ourselves. We alternate between exaltation, thinking we’re all-powerful because we have the power to destroy the world (which our ancestors called the sin of hubris), and depression because we can’t or won’t do what all our wise men tell us we should. We know what we should do, but only as children know what adults do, without being able to do it themselves.

But this doesn't matter. This is what our life, my life, is, but I don’t care. I don’t care about myself. Even if this planet circling this star should be home to the only life there is, the only things alive as we are, I want to know and understand more than this, as much as I am able to understand of what life is and what it can be, before mine ends. I want to understand myself as well as I can before I cease to be myself.

I know I’ve been cruel. Not wittingly, but because it’s my nature, human nature. None of us mean to be cruel. We’re cruel as children, left alone on the shore of the eternal sea, are thoughtlessly cruel to the little creatures they catch and play with to pass the time.

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.

We are children without a parent, ronin without a master. Edward Abbey said that because most men are unable to govern themselves, they’re even less able to govern others. He imagined this was an argument for anarchy, but most people see it as an argument for putting up with any master, however bad. The only thing worse than a bad master is no master. Namque pauci libertatum pars magna iustos dominos volunt.

Before Lord God made the sea and the land
He held all the stars in the palm of His hand
And they ran through His fingers like grains of sand
And one little star fell alone.

And the Lord God hunted through the wide night air
For that little star lost in the wind down there
And He stated and He promised
He'd take special care
So it wouldn't get lost again.

Now Man don't mind if the stars grow dim
And the clouds blow over and darken him
So long as Lord God's watching over him
Keeping track of how it all goes on.

But I've been walking through the night and the day
Till my eyes get weary and my head turns grey
And sometimes it seems maybe God's gone away
Forgetting His promise that we heard Him say
And we're lost out here in the stars.
Little stars
Big stars
Blowing through the night
And we're lost out here in the stars.

Monday, March 13, 2017

One Hundred and Twenty

Other animals kill because they know no better. Knowing better makes us human.

Knowing better is our blessing and our curse, because we seldom do better.

Human history is a record of our crimes and our gods. We created gods to forgive us for crimes we couldn’t forgive ourselves. But now we know there are no gods. After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

Friday, March 3, 2017

One Hundred and Nineteen

There’s still much to learn, if I wanted to. But I don’t. Everything I’m learning now disgusts me.

We haven’t always been disgusting. Once we were like other animals, killing each other because we knew no better. But now we do know better. Now we know the difference between right and wrong, and to my disgust we choose to do what we know is wrong.

We could have been gods, but we chose to become beasts. And now we’re destroying ourselves because we’re disgusted by what we've become.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

One Hundred and Eighteen

Scientists of the mind claim we can’t imagine the world without us in it. They mean we can’t imagine not existing. I can easily imagine the world without me in it, because I don’t feel I belong in it.

I know most people feel the same. But most other people imagine there's another better world in which they do belong.

Most people seek to escape from this world into that other better one. Few accept that this is the only world, and try to make it better.

Monday, February 20, 2017

One Hundred and Seventeen

Despite the pain, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Not because the memory consoles us, but because knowing and accepting that we'll never be happy again reconciles us to life, and to death. Love. like life, is a disease, and those who recover from it are thereafter immune.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

One Hundred and Sixteen

I used to tell myself I stay alive because I still want to learn, to understand what little I can while I still can. In reality I want to learn new things in order to avoid thinking about old things, the things I’ve always known.

I’ve always known knowledge should lead to action. It’s not enough, as Marx said, to understand the world. We must change it. 

I’ve always known knowledge is not power. Only power is power.

I’ve never had the power to change the world. Those who do remake the world to serve them, usually at the expense of others.

The made world is not made for us, but some of us find a place in it by making ourselves useful to its masters. But now our masters, like Hēphaistos, have tripods that walk, so they no longer need our services.

Having destroyed our world to make theirs, and made us accomplices to their crime, our masters are now withdrawing inside their gated communities, like gods returning to Valhalla, leaving us mortals behind to burn in hell.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

One Hundred and Fifteen

We call ourselves the only rational animal, but we don’t use reason when deciding what to do. We use it only after we’ve decided, to rationalize doing what any other animal would recognize is irrational.

We claim we’re not governed by instinct, as other animals are, but by reason. In reality we’re governed by a fear greater than either reason or instinct, greater than common sense or the ordinary animal’s instinct for survival.

We are the most destructive of animals because we’re always conscious of our weakness, and afraid others will take advantage of that weakness. We assume everyone is our enemy, actual or potential, so we attack them before they can attack us.

When we attack and destroy others, we lose our feeling of weakness. We even persuade ourselves that we’re actually strong, invincible. But that feeling of strength is as irrational as our feeling of weakness, so it doesn’t last.     

It’s not because we fear them that we do everything our masters ask before they ask. We do it because we love our masters more than we love ourselves. They seem to be who we wish we were, our ideal selves.

Our masters prey on us as we prey on each other, so they seem stronger than we are, just as we seem stronger than our victims. But masters are weaker than their slaves. Masters need slaves to do for them what they can’t or won’t do for themselves.

Every human society is divided into masters and slaves. We rationalize this by claiming masters are naturally superior, and slaves naturally inferior. Everyone knows this is a lie, but we're social animals, and prefer living with others in a society based on lies to living alone with the truth.   

Sunday, February 12, 2017

One Hundred and Fourteen

All animals compete to survive. But they also co-operate when necessary

Even animals whose relationship is normally that of predator and prey co-operate when necessary. Only human animals are so conscious of their own weakness, and so fearful that others will take advantage of that weakness, that they will not co-operate, not even with others of their own kind, not even when it's necessary to survive. 

Other social animals submit to the leadership of the strongest member of their society because, in return for the privileges they grant him, the leader protects the other members of the society. Only human animals submit to the leadership of  the most antisocial member of their society because they regard indifference to others as a sign of strength. They need their leader, but he appears not to need them.

This leader is usually male. Most human societies are patriarchal, and divided into masters and slaves; a combination that's rare, if not unique. Most other animal societies are matriarchal; and although hierarchal, few are divided into masters and slaves. 

Men need women for the same reason masters need slaves: to do for them what they can't or won't do for themselves. Patriarchs pretend to despise women and slaves because admitting they need them would be an admission of weakness. But even men who've persuaded themselves that they despise women and slaves acknowledge that they have their uses. 

Every woman is potentially a mother. She can give a man children, particularly sons, which are the only immortality any man can reasonably hope for. By giving him children, she also validates a man’s membership in the patriarchy, the ruling class of fathers.

Possessing a woman also enables a man to become a boy again.

According to Freud, a boy gives up his mother reluctantly, because he fears that his father, to whom she rightfully belongs, will punish him if he doesn’t give her up. But it’s not only fear of his father that persuades a boy to give up his mother. 

He believes that if he accepts his father’s authority and imitates him, becoming a patriarch like him, he will obtain a woman of his own. That woman will be only a substitute for his father’s woman, but a substitute mother is better than no mother.

Boys grow bigger, but seldom wiser. Most merely learn to impersonate their fathers because they want a woman like his, a substitute mother who will enable them to be boys again. But their fear of their fathers causes them to seek virgin brides, girls who have never belonged to another man.

The more a boy, or a man, seeks the approval of his father, and of male authority figures in general, the more misogynistic he becomes. Some prove their devotion to the patriarchs by give up women altogether, because it was competition for a woman that turned father and son against each other.

But they fear being too devoted, too submissive, because no father wants an effeminate son. It calls his own masculinity into question.

Freud didn't understand homosexuals any more than he understood women because he misread the myth on which he based his theory. Œdipus is his Everyman. But before Œdipus came Laius who, according to the myth, was the first homosexual. We pretend homosexuality is unmanly, but it defined Laius as a patriarch.

Most men, whether they're called heterosexual or homosexual, want to dominate other men for the same reason they want to dominate women - they fear being dominated by them - and it's easiest to dominate others by seducing them, inducing them to surrender willingly.

Laius was a patriarch, but he was not a man. He was a big frightened boy who saw his own son as his rival for the woman who Laius saw not as a wife, but a substitute mother. He therefore tried to kill his son while Œdipus was still a baby. But he failed, ensuring that Œdipus would take his revenge when he became a man.

Neoteny, social and biological, defines us as a species. Most boys and girls never mature, never become men and women. They merely learn to impersonate men and women, and live in constant fear that their fraud will be discovered. 

Fear is what defines us, and differentiates us from other animals. We pretend we're not animals, and live in constant fear of discovering that we're frauds. 

What most men, those we call heterosexual as well as those we call homosexual, desire most in another man is the same thing they desire most in a woman. Heterosexual men want virgins, girls who have never belonged to another man. Homosexual men also want virgins, boys who have never belonged to another man. A boy is not a patriarch, and will love them as their father never did. Pædophilia has therefore been the rule throughout human history. 

We outlaw pædophilia and pretend to find it abhorrent because, as Freud said, we most hate what we most desire. We hate the power that desire has over us. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

One Hundred and Thirteen

I watch too much television. I do little else now except watch television, the dream machine. But all our machines are dream machines. We've always preferred dreams to reality.

A recurring feature of our television dreams is the exploding machine. Not a bomb, a machine built to self-destruct, but a machine built to make life better that instead makes it worse, and even destroys it.

Le Corbusier called the house a machine built for living, but so is the city. He called the city of New York unlivable, but so is every city. When he heard what the residents of Pessac had done to his planned community, he said that life is always right, and it's the architect who is wrong.

Cities that self-destruct are the stuff of human history. Every machine eventually breaks down, and every dream proves to be an illusion.

The house and the city aren’t the only machines that self-destruct. Almost every television crime drama – and all television dramas are crime dramas now – features an exploding car. Whenever someone is shown walking to a car and climbing into it, almost always the car explodes. What better evidence can there be that we know our machines can’t be relied on to take us where we want to go?

Where we want to go is not another place, but another time. Another persistent dream, one which even those we call scientists dream, is of time travel. We dream of returning to the scene of a past crime, and undoing it.

We used to imagine we know more than our ancestors did, and thanks to science would avoid making the same mistakes they did. We now know that even if we do avoid making the same mistakes, we'll make different mistakes. In order to change the world and make it better, we'd have to change ourselves. We'd have to stop dreaming and wake up.