I have been awfully naughty. I just finished a box of chocolates, seven truffles and pralines, and I am rediscovering Mood as a capricious mistress. Because there are times when coping with life’s uncertainties leave me feeling fucked over and wondering where did all the years go and asking wasn’t I supposed to be a spectacular success and ga-zillionaire by now? But today Mood is a benevolent dominatrix and I feel good being forked over. There’s no million pound bank account and next week I quit my corporate job (and an unproductive working relationship) for business startup world; setting off to “change my world” and who knows maybe even “the world”. So what my future is not neatly mapped out with deterministic outcomes; so what the prospect of doing something amazing is as thrilling as the risk of failure is terrifying; so what the future may not always be “alright”? Whatever the situation there will be at least one solution; of that I am convinced. I just need to keep calm, think clearly and execute. I will also need luck. So I’m feeling good right now and being something of an existentialist is, maybe, responsible for that. Or it might just be the chocolate.
This sky, my sky was blue with joy all day. How quickly this sky, my sky turned black from exhaustion; worn out from weary obeisance to King Sun whose splendour is glimpsed one half of every twenty four hours. This night, my night of winking stars; stars shimmering behind fuzzy white clouds; stars alive far beyond the constricted perimeter of our solar cocoon. Tonight’s constellation I can only imagine for the universe, my universe, is walled behind the fog that floats below the sky, my sky. I hear the drones of aeroplanes flying above cotton buds pregnant with vapour and I am comforted that at least someone up there is pondering how wondrous it is to be one with stardust. My stardust.
We sometimes come upon pronouncements that are such perfect reflections of our own mind that we wonder if coming upon those words was just pure chance or instigated by divine intention.
“Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere … this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible hypotheses…it is the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. And nothing warrants the… hope that on this score our position is likely ever to be revised. There is no scientific concept, in any of the sciences, more destructive of anthropocentrism than this one.” – Jacques Monod
Those that I envy the most are not the rich or the great or even the famous, the young or the beautiful but the souls who live spontaneously in non-metronomic rhythm; in step with the drum that calls a man to life and to live. I, on the other hand, feel mostly, girdled, girded round, encircled, a bone-dry mummy entombed in a crypt and sentenced to a display cage in a museum. What hell to be constrained within the prison cells of pragmatism and convention! It is as if the souls of the bodies that I see outside of me are actually inside of me; maggots wending a slimy pathway through my thoughts, giving the thumbs up to ideas that meet not the dictionary’s definition of common sense but the public interpretation of it and then shooting down all my attempts to escape and float upwards on the lofty air of rhapsodic discovery. Those souls out there, outside of my imagined reality, living erringly or truthfully but always spontaneously: surely they are my true brothers and sisters; my long lost aunts anxious to send me on my merry way laden with provisions of honey and ambrosia. My magic carpet is ready to fly.
‘Only one thing astonishes me more than the stupidity with which most people live their lives, and that’s the intelligence of this stupidity.”
It’s the second day of the tenth month of the second millennium (and thirteenth year) since Time Zero (AD) and this pudding of a calendar year is rapidly going off. For humans a year is like “oh my god, it’s been like a year!!!” and our bodies age, our careers careen and our graves siren ever louder and grimmer. But let’s face it, the concept of time is a meaningless construct. It feels like ‘only yesterday’ I celebrated last christmas (in cold Chicago) and New Year a week later (in warm California) but I’m hard pressed to name all the exciting things that have happened to me since (a new MacBook, does that count?).
To spend a year on Earth is to spend one month on Jupiter and two days on Neptune and while in my imagination I see galaxies where a ‘lifetime’ is forever and where the dazzling luminary that colours the sky never dims; yet this dreamland is odious to me for I am married ’til death do us part to an evolutionary body that can’t deal with the concept of not sleeping. A place where eyes remain wide open? Oh no. It is good to sleep – in fact I am quite looking forward to a few days hence when I can (and shall) poop for twelve hours in one swoop. Yes, I know Solomon in his famous proverbs was quite severe on sluggards but what did he know of resting tired bones, he being a king and all? If I had three hundred concubines on top of seven hundred wives I think I could also find the energy to stay awake for some extra jiggy jiggy.
The obverse of sleep is not wakefulness but death: when the lights go out and life can go fuck itself. If I’m honest my life is pretty banal most days and so are the lives of the legions that I see boldly rushing to jobs that pay just enough (except for those in the top 2% who are granted the luxury of working from home or from the golf course when they feel like it). Our whole existence is aimed at just that: existing. We don’t get to ride a sunbeam at lightspeed. We don’t get to camp a night on Mars or the dark side of the moon. We don’t get to traverse black holes and live to retell the tale. The closest we get to magic is when babies are born or we come up close to animals we’ve only seen on TV or in books. Or when we dream.
Banality is the one certain bane of mankind. And each year we are weighed down more and more by the banality of life trying well-tested tricks for fun: from class A drugs to X-rated sex; from reality TV to absent-mindedly surfing the net. [Actually reading good books is pretty cool; and so is good music; and high quality theatre; and of course intelligent conversation and long rambunctious dinners with good friends settled with excellent wine – gosh there’s a growing list of things that make living worthwhile].
I feel somewhat like those poor souls sent to training courses only to return to the office to continue doing what they always did (and expecting different results) and I shall wake up tomorrow morning with a rotten sense of how much of my time, tomorrow, will be spent doing things that are … trifles, all in the name of a job that looked like a truffle when I started. Unlike Fernando Pessoa whose words I quoted above, it’s not stupidity that I marvel at; what astonishes me more than the banality with which most people live their lives is the intelligence of this banality.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics there were approx 118 million full-time employees in the US in August (http://www.statista.com/statistics/192361/unadjusted-monthly-number-of-full-time-employees-in-the-us/). Just under one million of them are going to be summarily dismissed at midnight tonight by the Republican House of Congress. The largest mass firing since Lehman? Republicans probably think this is all a joke. “Just give us what we want,’ they whine with an air of entitlement, “and we won’t let the country go up in smoke.” A party of adults who think no deeper than a three-year old.
Democracy isn’t a perfect institution but a stop-gap measure to avert civil war: rational intelligent people agree to disagree; and agree to live by laws instituted by democratically elected governments. If one party doesn’t like the law it canvasses the public and if successful, gets elected and changes the law. Otherwise it abides by the law of the land. It is that simple but it takes maturity to abide by it. This is a concept that the founding fathers of America understood pretty well. It is a concept that the bigwigs in the Roman Republic let wither after 400 years of republicanism. It is a concept that the inferior intellects of today’s US Republican party have chucked out the window. After all they are God’s party and God doesn’t compromise, right? “It’s my [God’s] way or the Hell way.” It was hell’s way for Rome – democrats and republicans alike were slaughtered in the ensuing melee and the State exchanged independence for submission under emperors.
The knock-on effect of a million people being without a paycheck will be felt much farther than the eight hundred thousand being dismissed. Household budgets, care for children, consumer spending, impact on capital markets etc etc all these are understood by those with some modicum of financial nous and no doubt there will be inscrutable research papers and theses written. The rhino in the room is the precedence that this ill-thought and irresponsible misadventure by the Republicans sets: this will be a cancer that won’t stay in remission. And the rest of America must fear when sooner or later the Republican party fractures and implodes. It won’t be a day for celebration because without an overarching structure, the rank and file of idiots will be bereft of the hope of sound leadership. For history tells us that desperate people take desperate measures.
Would to starry heaven that smiling at strangers had a purpose. And before last January there was no good reason to suffer such indignities; who wanted to look at my teeth, planted like Easter Island statues, solitude standing, each on its own plinth, proclaiming: “Ok, here’s my personal space. Y’all stay over there and we’ll get along fine”. Tragedy.
Nine brace-capped months later and once disjointed teeth are now chumming along like conjoined siblings. From this beaming vista I can finally appreciate why snakeoil sales men, with winning smiles, can sell oil to snakes but I fear that my orthodontist, well-meaning and stupendously recompensed I might add, has in fixing my teeth also unmasked me and stripped off the excuse that was my garb; and so here I laugh, frightfully naked. It’s not that I hate strangers (I’m not yet a misanthrope) but I just think strangers haven’t done anything to deserve my sunny breezy smile.
By god, it takes a lot of nerve and fakery to produce an “I’m-so-pleased-to-meet-you” smile. All of that energy and you’re repaid back with a smile that has the familiar U-shape at the bottom third of the face but has been manufactured in a North Korean death camp. Worse, you get back a grin or its cousin, the smirk. Both are what you give to someone you think is a jackass but polite society forbids you speaking without thinking. But there’s something even worse than a grin: being ignored.
It’s no accident then that new people are like boils: uninvited but demanding of careful and worrisome attention and frankly after a day outdoors being nice and smily to strangers I am so relieved to be back home. Home, where the only strangers I meet are the ones I create purposefully in daydreams or that my mind manufactures from the books I read. The strangers that I meet there couldn’t give a fuck if I smiled or farted.