Saturday, 19 October 2013

Between Independence and Slavery

I'm probably too all over the place at the moment to do this, but here we go.

Basically, emotions are dangerous. They're employed by charlatans to make intelligent people believe in silly narratives, exploited workers admire their abusers, good-natured people hate strangers, citizens love Big Brother. They use our open hearts to rape our brain. Essentially, they make us stupid.

A fantastic way to gain independence, then, is eliminating emotions. But emotions continue to exist no matter what you do and there's no such thing as not being dependent on anyone. What you can have, possibly, is not letting your guard down by the wrong people. This is where I seem to have trouble. Dependence.

Dependence, or emotions, or being a human and not a fucking android, means letting yourself be carried away by things even if they don't make perfect intelligent logical sense. In the end, all analytical, critical intelligence can provide is damage control. It never helped anybody enjoy anything, and anybody who claims it has is fucking lying.

Another word describing being a human and not a fucking android is trust. You can have trust in people, just as you can have faith in institutions and enterprises, which you apparently usually do for completely wrong reasons. I have faith, as it happens, in democracy, human rights, individualism, science, and artistic and spiritual pursuits, among others, but actually trust very few actual people any further than I could throw them, which possibly explains why I seem to trust women slightly more.

The question is, could people really be as dangerous as the really shitty institutions? Is there a person out there as bad as Judaism? Could he possibly hide his shittiness as well as she did? Could his shittifying possibly be as insidious? Are there people out there as inside-out disgusting as racism or fascism? But isn't it racists and fascists in the first place that are responsible for spreading (and insinuating) racism and fascism anyway?

Who's actually dangerous?

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Conventional anthropological orientalism establishes modern liberal Western superiority in its preference of "guilt-culture" over the superficial shame-culture of all these other traditionally collectivist, conformist, repressed, and all-round silly non-white nations. The West were the only ones to take justice seriously - to ensure that morality was not just a masquerade but an authentic moral commitment.

I'm not even trying to completely refute this claim, but it's interesting to note that Confucius, for one, spoke of cultivating a sense of inner shame, as it were, by meticulous performance of rituals, that was meant to help internalise one's place in the social order, so that deviation from it feels "unnatural", and be abstained from in itself, rather than just held in check when the wrong people were looking.

Alas, it appears that China was not quite up for it. A very messy history followed, even while the elite ostensibly espoused his views. Social mobility was far more extensive than in the West - two peasants, for an extreme example, a thousand years apart, rose to found their own long-lasting dynasties - religious and ideological movements came and went, reforms and criticism of those in power were significant enough to turn China into a source of inspiration for Enlightenment philosophers, civil unrest and war were frequent, and presumably Chinese people were already as loud then as they are now. The meek bunch of pussies Confucius envisioned never really took form, even in China's mid-20th-century semi-totalitarian phase. My thoroughly researched and bloodcurdlingly erudite analysis attributes this to the fact that Chinese culture was essentially and fundamentally anthropocentric. A god never made sense to them as possibly that important, and neither did fucking self-hating guilt.

Enter bourgeois Europe. Destructive as the new order it created was of previous, feudal and docile values - and probably in response to the shockingly naked avarice and brutal exploitation it embraced - there must have risen the new, and in principle quite paradoxical and almost absurd need, for bourgeois respectability. Table manners were instituted, sexual repression intensified, the hoarding of resources became a mark of prestige, smug anti-spiritualism arrived on the scene, the poor began to be condemned for their poverty, the socially deviant newly hospitalised instead of just being kept apart, and gradually, society finally became fertile enough ground for guilt to take firm root, along with the conspicuous consumption invoked to assuage it, and Confucius' vision was finally realised, albeit by primitive Occidentals.

Yes yes, I know, the modern era wasn't all bad. It did bring the industrial revolution which finally allowed people to live longer than 40 years, and democracy which gave people a chance to escape enslavement even if they weren't born rich, but I do want to insist that there was something fundamentally wrong with the idea of programming people into desired behaviour rather than persuading or even intimidating them into it, and that it constitutes an incredibly dangerous process, or ongoing, seemingly inexorable attempt, that was always  going, in some form or another, to aim at turning us into this:

Or, I suppose, into this:

What I am trying to say, in what is probably the most roundabout way I have ever tried to say anything, is that expecting people to be, as opposed to just act the way you want them to, is to expect them to have the properties of a malleable physical object, to mold them by guilt the same way you smelt metal into a more refined version. But human smelting doesn't work - it just burns. It's an insane situation that is a corollary of the insane value system that sees human labour as a resource like coal, to be harvested to the maximum extent and exploited for all that it's worth.

Rules should be something the violation of which scares us, not something we subordinate our very existence and minds to. It is religious repression at its worst. It is Taliban Afghanistan only without burqas and with women behind the steering wheel. But what's the point of being able to drive a car if all you are is a can of baked beans?

Thursday, 27 June 2013


I am afraid of being ejected from society.

I am afraid of wasting my life on easy empty conformism.

I am afraid of not having the support I need in risking disapproval.

I am afraid of being denied the opportunities that come with "high-functioning".

I am afraid of breaking down and feeling humiliated in public.

I am afraid of there actually being nothing beyond what isn't enough.

I am afraid of not being up to it.

I am afraid of being regarded as fundamentally ridiculous.

I am terrified of rejection.

I am afraid of my surrounding's reaction to fear.

I like Lily.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The War

A long long time ago, in a post far away, I made reference to the war on personality. I was suddenly brought very forcefully back to it by this pretty astonishing account of Captain Picard's (any chance you could just trust me that this is very worth watching?):

(saw this here)

If I had any actual readership on this blog, I would no doubt use this opportunity to poll people on whether they found this uplifting, as I suspect we're meant to, or merely heartbreaking, which is where I'm stuck.

I don't know if it's a question of maturity - of being able to see these little victories as worthwhile without megalomania - or of a different level of expectations and ultimate optimism, but all I can see is the good guys, or humanity, incredibly badly losing. The child can't fight evil, so the adult forgives it.

I feel like bombing this text with hyperboles as I am wont to will not suffice to communicate how blown my mind is by the equivalence made here between the assistance to women and the assistance to their abusers. It feels like there's an incredibly significant life insight here that I am not sufficiently equipped to be capable of fully assimilating.

How can you stop fighting a war that is continuing to be fought against you?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Grownupness and Religion and Masculinity and Sensibleness and Success and All the Rest of That Total Fucking Bullshit

Back in the days of really bloody awful depression, I used to have these fits of startlingly violent and protracted sobbing, like that of a grieving mother or, significantly, of a really frustrated young kid. I've just had an attenuated version of one of these, and one of the most striking things about it was the reminder of how much of a release they used to offer and how immeasurably shittier it was before the explosion. Such a sensation of release might at first glance seem a natural result of the release of emotions - but it fucking well isn't - it's the sensation of release from an empire of bullshit.

My head and heart are swimming with a million different things I've picked up or noticed more for some reason in the past few weeks, all having to do, it seems, with this bullshit and its bullshittiness. Yes, yes I am going to try and address all of them, and to articulate what it is that appears to be at their bottom, which I suppose is as good a place as any to look for bullshit, at least if you're looking at bulls.

For the past year or so, actually - possibly since reading Naked Lunch - I have found myself frequently and almost obsessively preoccupied with the social position of homosexuals. The absence of an accompanying attraction to men - in fact, the alienation from and suppressed animosity towards most men and any and all manifestations of masculinity - appear to suggest that it is something other than sexuality that is here latent and closeted.

I've made the comparison here before between homosexuality and sadness, or depression by extension, but (once more) I think that's only a part of it. A larger part of it, I suspect, has to do with the heroic and inspirational image indelibly etched into my mind, of the men of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert venturing into this same desert in impossibly elaborate and ridiculously awesome get-up I may have no choice but to add to my regular wardrobe.

I'm not even kidding.

Well, I may be kidding a bit, but that truly was an image that stuck in my mind and kept coming up in association with how I'd like my life to be. It has, as it happens, stuck in my mind far more than the rest of the film, which is kind of a blur already (and on the urgent re-see list), but I do distinctly remember the protagonist Elrond being very worried that, homosexuality notwithstanding, this really wasn't an appropriate occupation for a grown man and a father. The inspirational message of the film was that of course it was, stupid.

Which is what I think that story is about, really. It may subvert gender norms and strike a victory for genderqueers and homosexuals in their battle for acceptance, but more importantly it celebrates the right of men and women of all attitudes and orientations to make complete morons out of themselves. Because there was never any fucking reason not to.

Another movie, which I saw today, and is, in all probability, actually too good to be seen by mere humans, nonetheless managed to affect me deeply, and really really surprisingly. Its understated name, Moon, is somewhat thematically appropriate, but is probably partly responsible for the fact that it's not the earth-shattering success that it has every right to be. I'm not sure how deeply I can go into it without spoiling everything, but suffice it to say (hopefully) that it is about humanity and dehumanisation, and that the fact that it doesn't use the major character in it that is a machine as a simplistic crutch to make its statement is indicative of how it actually has something significant to say.

That seems to me to be the neglected alternative purpose of worthwhile life-living effort - significance, truth, meaning, emotion. Whatever you call it, it immediately and self-evidently justifies leaving the bullshit empire behind, and is in fact impossible to attain while within it. Grownups take care that everything obeys time-honoured conventions that are important because they are conventions. Real people save the effort to try and catch as much as possible of what is true.

The other thing this brilliant film made me think and freak out about, is how much I love film when it's done well and how the fuck I could have forgotten about that. The thing is, I know exactly how. My weaning off films was very clearly and directly related to my attempt to leave the lifestyle of depression and settle myself once more among the people of my agegroup, who, incidentally, were suddenly becoming grownups.

Being a grownup is a lot like being religious. Just like how when you're a religious kid, God is associated with everything and turns every transgression against homework, parents, the patience of adults or sexual sterility (not to mention actual religious duties) into a sin against God and powers a massive undercurrent of shame and terror - so when you're an adult, a proper grownup, what isn't useful, ingratiating or impressive, is a fucking sin against society, and in indulging it, you run the risk, whether overt or implied, of entering social hell.

I fucking hate all these fucking superstitions. Fact of the matter is, measuring yourself against any external standard is intrinsically dehumanising, and by definition diametrically opposed to truth. It implies that what and who you are is less important than what you should be. Or, in other words, it is an exercise in pointless self-hatred, not unlike Judaism and its lovechildren.

All of this, if it may be taken together, is paired with the growing realisation - or receding denial - that I CANNOT BE A GROWNUP. I still can't handle a full work-week or get the apartment or even just my important errands under control. Hopefully that will get better, but the point is that I cannot breeze through it. I cannot breeze through anything. Any time I say about anything that it's not incredibly hard I am lying through my teeth. Even when things don't send me into full sobbing, I am regularly and consistently hit hard by life. I am overwhelmed pretty much by default. I feel like a little kid being expected to handle adult responsibilities less because of their scope than because that is who I am. I'm not a tough guy. I'm not a paragon of imperturbability. I don't want to be. I wish I could stop apologising about that.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Beyond Reproach

I seem to be weaning off my customary opening desperately trying to tie in some kind of literary-arty-cultural reference to what I want to say, but I want to go beyond not apologising for its absence to making it (the absence) the point. Just saying what you want to say without justifying it, risks becoming what they call "self-indulgent". Here's a literary quote I just found from Tom Robbins about self-indulgence:

“The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you're unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously.”

What a complete prat.

Anyway, what intelligence, wit, responsibility, success and conformism have in common, and probably why they more or less equally annoy me, is that they place you above criticism, and as far away as possible from your emotions. It's a handy way of having yourself gradually killed, sacrificed on the altar of preventing people's slight inconveniences.

It's also a kind of twilight zone. You're not exactly removed from people, but you're not really there. You can't feel them and they can't touch you, but you sort of relate to one another through feedback on how well you're following the instructions. It's as compulsive as it is nauseating, and I can never quite figure out if I do it substantially more or less than the people I see around me.

When you do indulge your self you leave yourself open to accusations of being alive (or unhappy). It is the sheer inherent unavoidability of these accusations that I appear to have trouble assimilating. It's just so fucking depressing.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Gateway Expedients

children know what they want
adults have internalised nonsense
know only the means.

children do not know the means
do not know how to avoid dangers
how to look after their medium term interest.

"Grow up" means perfect your proficiency with the means.

children may obey and even need the rules more 
but do not internalise them. 
the rules to the means.


I wrote the above sort of by accident, in a slipshod, haphazard brainstorming text-dump attempt to organise my thoughts for the post before writing it. Then it seemed to me, at least in my current sedated state, that converted to free verse of the kind whose existence I'm vaguely aware of, it has some power. So it's as good a place as any to start.

Simply (possibly simplistically but not necessarily) put - I feel under attack by the demands of adulthood. I'm a boringly law-abiding citizen, even generally abiding by the sillier and more easily violable ones, and other people, especially the adults among them, are in fact very nice to me. And yet.

I know it's a very common simile; I feel it pertains to me in a far profounder way than for most; I don't know if it matters - I feel like a boy in a world of men. It's an intimidating situation, but more ambivalent than would be obviously implied. These are kind of macho men, inherently and obliviously ridiculous, yet definitely capable of something of which I am not, and representing, as such, the aforementioned benevolent women as well as the well-meaning men. It's a dynamic that also conjures for me the image of a civilian amongst soldiers. As you can see from these examples, it's not exactly a gender thing, but it kind of is.

My kitchen sink has become something of a symbol of my failure as an adult. Today, after heroically braving the crockery mountain protruding out of it, falling back after having decided that enough dish-washer has been spilt this night, I saw peering at me from out of the sink in a surprisingly colourful array, a quartet of our cups, in blue, green, red and yellow. Though perhaps not an incident likely to make it into the Annals of Jerusalem, I found it genuinely aesthetically noteworthy, and more significantly, it provided a sudden flashback and in any case an association of colourful kindergarten. It said to me, acceptingly rather than accusingly, "This is you."

But adultness grows on you. Not unlike, for instance, a tumour. I don't actually know how tumours grow, but adultnesses grow through protracted exposure to societal expectation, even non-verbal, even non-penalising. The embarrassment of not living up to the standards of performance assumed of your situation, is, in and of itself, sufficient reason, or impetus, in any case, to adopt a world-view and identity centred around and towards and behind and beneath the ultimate aim of managing to GET THINGS DONE. What things? What for? Ha.

Children don't have qualms about the meaning of life, about the nature of the goodness of good things, because they haven't been scheduled yet for the equivocating, falsifying corruption that will prepare them to be constructive members of adult society, in providing them the means for the social lubrication, emotional distance and conforming instinct that will stand them in such wonderful stead as they get on in life and achieve SUCCESS.

Failing has never seemed so sexy.

But the fun of it runs out. You need to have some kind of understanding of money, or of politics, even if you don't intend to be a capitalist or a kleptocrat. But apparently that's not as easy as it sounds.

In summary, I blow my nose at you and fart in your general direction, so-called adult responsibilities. Your mother was a dogma and your father smelled of futility-berries

I would also like to add, since the stats the site gives me suggest that it is actually frequented by people other than my mom (hi mom!), that feedback, of pretty much any kind (don't take that a challenge) would be appreciated. Even if just to say "I'm reading this", because I'm never really sure. Also, especially regarding the latter rage-fests, issues are generally open for discussion even when it might seem implied they're not.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Diseased Minds

Russell and Cooper have clearly made a point of not allowing Pat to become what mentally ill characters often become in Hollywood movies: someone magnetic and full of wise secrets that we “normals” would benefit from if only we could open our tiny minds and see past all the “rules” we foolishly allow ourselves to be corralled by" - MaryAnn Johanson, self-proclaimed flick filosopher, in a positive review

Other reviews of this very very good film have also tended to be positive, but what I've mainly noticed is all the approving, knowing talk about how this film goes about presenting its characters in a grown-up way, not sugarcoating or romanticising the reality of living with crippling mental illness.

This odd expression of empathy reminded me of Styron's Darkness Visible again. If we get together and advocate effectively enough, we have it in us to convince society that our inferiority is not our fault. It's a somewhat questionable aspiration in any case, but it sure as hell wasn't what the film I was watching was about.

One problem with the sickness paradigm is that you can't really attribute it to something external, which once you've dealt with you're then healthy. They're coming to fix your emotions and personality, and you'll only be truly healthy once you're someone else. The second problem is that - as opposed to the body, whose organs have definite functions attached to them which illness impedes - with the mind it's only a question of conventions. Of course, it is then explained that these transgressions of norms impede their functioning in society, and therefore necessitate treatment. Had this philosophy of medicine managed to establish itself in other fields beyond psychiatry, we might have heard dermatologists earlier on in the previous century pronouncing black people cutaneously (that means of the skin, I looked it up) ill, and supposing a future environment where small stature would be looked down on far more hostilely than we ourselves would consider reasonable, whatever branch of medicine deals with those things would undoubtedly declare them vertically ill.

Without a doubt these people suffer. Without a doubt this suffering of theirs is also generally eased by people devoted to their care, though I would guess that less by psychiatrists with their super-pills than by systematic emotional support and aided introspection, which would do good for anyone.

A higher than usual degree of suffering is probably a more accurate and sensible general characterisation of the so-called mentally ill than mental dysfunction. Another one might be deviation from emotional and ideological orthodoxy. Institutionalisation occurs when they stray, in turn, too far out of behavioural orthodoxy, but even before that, all who feel and think wrongly are at best miserable sick people needful of our empathy and help.

I have something of an odd recurring crisis. Every time somebody asks me how I am (though it doesn't always sound like a question and probably often isn't), it feels like a test of character that I fail by saying "Great! How are you?" I think what I'm hearing when I'm asked it is "How much do you belong here?" and I respond with a frantic enthusiasm "A whole lot! I'm the belongiest damn belonger around."

Every once in a while, I will get my courage up and say "Not that much. This is a strange place I don't really understand." Invariably, the reassuring response will be "Never mind! Here's how to pretend that you do!" I'm getting off easy here. If they would have considered me too far gone, all they'd be able to offer me is pity, if not disgust. At any rate, what their response amounts to is "Your apology is graciously accepted."

So, here's what I think, in the hope this post is maintaining some sort of coherence: Madness is a truth impulse. I'm not sure how and whether psychosis factors into it, but what the feelcrimes at least appear to have in common is a kind of rejection of self-confidence, of the viability of the status quo and of the realness of conventions. The mad have to be differentiated and ostracised because if they're like you, then you're like them, and life is doubtful and frightening and arbitrary and fucking stupid.

Here's my wise secret: "It's a crock of shit." Almost everything everybody does completely misses the point. It sort of gleefully misses the point in a what-are-you-gonna-do?-gotta-do-something kind of way. Most things are meant essentially as distractions, as assistance in avoiding "sinking into yourself." But I like it here, sunk in myself as I am. It probably is much more painful that the apparent alternative lifestyle, but it enables me to maintain self respect. It helps my good things be satisfying. It's like the difference, say 200 years ago, between being self-deludedly religious and secure, and embracing secularity and doubt and approaching life like a fucking grown-up.

One distinction grown-ups should be able to make is between empathy for a person in pain and condescension towards and implicit condemnation of him. The tendency to merge the two together is INSANE. Can't you just hope that the person feels better?

That's what I think the movie was about, anyway. Basically.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Allure of Stupidity

The first thing that comes to mind is jokes and similar exercises in humourous cleverness. Quite often I find myself laughing at or making these witty observations, but usually it's more a nervous reflex than anything else. What really exhilarates me, what I instinctively engage in with my girlfriend and what it gives me a sense of almost artistic satisfaction to get laughs from - is good natured displays of utter moronicality.

The second thing is dogs. Meeting a dog anywhere during the day is an exciting and borderline inspirational experience, but the real deal is the dog (formerly dogs) apparently always eagerly awaiting my return at my parents' house. Often, over the years, I would find that my relationships with them were strangely more satisfying and enjoyable in significant ways than my relationships with my friends. I'd always attributed it mainly to their non-judgementalness, but lately I'm thinking it bears more than a coincidental relation to their patent and prodigious stupidity.

Also, treading more dangerous ground now, it might shed some light on what had always seemed to me the rather bizarre and apparently gender-specific phenomenon of girls throwing up their hands and saying "yeah, well, I guess I'm just too dumb for this kind of thing," with a cheeriness that seems to border on pride. It also, possibly, and separately, might explain why some men might find that attractive. Implicitly tired of themselves and of the aggression and deceit their ceaseless self-aggrandisement requires, they might feel some genuine admiration at women "pure" of this corruption. It is, of course, somewhat less heroic when the ignorance is itself feigned or actively maintained for these purposes, but I'm trying to get at a drive that seems to draw people - female as well as male - towards stupidity, independently of the power politics involved.

And then there's children. I'd always enjoyed the company of young children, even when I myself was a young child only a few years their senior. Kids are a lot of things - direct, emotive, truly spontaneous and uncynical (though not exactly innocent) - but what I have only in recent years gradually grown to see as an essential feature of their appeal is the fact that they're enormous idiots.

What I think these paragons of stupidity offer us, and possibly specifically me, is freedom - to paraphrase Robert Pirsig of Zen and the Really Long Book Title - from the Tyranny of Reason.

I think people forget too often that the scientific revolution was essentially anti-intellectual. It said fuck off with your sages and learned and sophisticated treatises and expert casuistry - give me what my eyes see, experience proves, comprehensive criticism leaves intact and the layman basically understands. It's left a paradoxical legacy. On the one hand, we try to be sensible, and generally avoid making overarching pronouncements we can't back up except with the reputation of our intellect. On the other, this proficiency in sensibility - that is to say, in mainly negative knowledge - has itself become the mark of intellect, and as this intellect towers above it gains the same kind of prestige and deference that had created the stagnation in the first place.

I'm probably overcomplicating things because of the hour and because I'm on an anxiolytic that is making me kind of woozy. The bottom line is that there's a difference between utilising reason to get better things out of life and glorifying reasonableness to the point where it becomes a secular religion. If you're using your ostensible reasonableness to try and impress others, or even just yourself, you are not necessarily doing a reasonable thing. What life is composed of and significant for isn't abstract ideas and efficient ways of processing them, or competitions in intelligent conduct - but emotions and the people who feel them.

Needing to be held up to the standard of reasonableness means needing to have your emotions and personality toe an arbitrary line. The importance of being intelligent is the importance of fitting in in what reason - the great unifier - has fashioned as appropriate for most people (or as many of its proponents imply, all real or worthwhile people). Life can only become predictable once people have become programmable.

For my own part, I have used reasoned analysis since almost as long as I can remember myself to drown out my irrelevant emotions and devote myself objectively to the problem at hand. It served me well in school in general and especially in mathematics, which started as my favourite subject and which by a very gradual and interesting process I had weaned myself off completely by graduation. The true believers often speak of the poetry of numbers involved in maths, and I believe them that they see it, but I never did. It was always exclusively the joy of doing well and being told that I was being approved of.

Mathematics is what you might call the purest expression of reason. Maths experts would then be something like the ultimate intelligent guys. I suspect I am not the only one tempted on many occasions to see life as mathematical. It is almost instinctual, in the period in which we live, to try and do the right, the intelligent thing. It is difficult to feel safe without this compliance, because no one is guaranteeing us respect of our emotions and essence, regardless of their reasonableness, even while there is regard of the consequences of our actual actions.

I still try, in stressful situations, to turn off my emotions so that I can figure out the right move. There never is one. There are only moves to perpetuate the rule of a ruthless dictatorship, in futile sycophantism. Orwell said that the quickest way to end a war was to lose it. That seems kind of questionable military strategy advice, but I think it applies here. I need to find a way to get myself exiled without getting executed.

And on a final note, that even manages to tie in - I considered posting this on facebook but then felt that it was too extreme, as well as possibly overkill in terms of the sheer quantity of dramatic announcements, but it's a serious operational problem now that I have resolved to answer truly as to how I am regardless of the "appropriateness" (I think I'm noticing a tendency to write really long sentences when I'm anxious) - I am finding the challenge I'm referring to everywhere here, of trying to go through life without relying on my intelligence to help me fake my way out of conflict, truly fucking terrifying. When people ask me how I am, and even when I ask myself how I am when not actively suppressing everything, the answer is I am scared shitless, and this is what I'm going to be until something gets better. It's a fair bit more dramatic than "sad" or "demotivated" and I'm really not sure how to fit it in conversation.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


I don't know what I believe in. That's probably a feeling rather than a reasoned appraisal, but perhaps that's even why it calls for being broken down.

Because I do definitely believe in expressing your feelings. If it isn't then it as least feels like the most recent addition to the ideological arsenal, or perhaps promotion, and has yet to have been truly checked out against repercussions in the world of action that for some people seems to pass for all of life.

My precious stability, that I had never taken for granted and had in fact always eyed warily, is more or less completely gone. But this is a stability that has had less to do with emotions (or as deeply and directly), than with ideology.

I don't know if I believe in analytical journaling. I don't know if I believe in blogging to four people. I don't know if I believe in cataloguing events, or the mood and dysfunctional thoughts journals. I don't know if I believe in my idea for a fantasy story. Some of these things raise more antagonism than others, but I'm suspicious towards all also because they are part of a counterintuitive drive to express my emotions.

I've been fighting a struggle. I've been measuring progress, on-and-off, since journaling began until letting it go a little with the spontaneity with Ella. It's still there in the background, and occasionally I've returned to it but I've not really updated it. I don't know if I believe in it either. I'm no longer sure I'm doing a good thing by trying to engage with the world, to integrate myself in it.

I don't know what is a good reaction to anxiety. I used to have a tonne of opinions. I don't remember them and I don't know if I'd still accept them. I don't know how important it is for me to make pretend I'm independent. I don't know how important a social life is, and where the distinction exactly is between that and friendships.

I probably started this in a better vein. I believe in expressing myself. I believe in love. I believe in fairness. I believe in intellectual independence, and in the dangers that lie in letting your ideology be determined by your surroundings. I believe in historical study, as well as in art, and individualism in general, as means to assist in identifying these dangers and avoiding them.

I believe I am sick, but I also believe that this sickness arises out of a socio-political phenomenon it is mistakenly conflated with. I believe that I perfectly healthily feel a variety of things more intensely than is appropriate in polite society. I believe in my right to be this person, because he is me.

I believe in some kind of interconnectedness of all things – some kind of metaphysical reality that justly attracts the devotional emotions of the religious but doesn't necessarily countenance – or isn't necessarily reconcilable with – the moral prescriptions they associate with it. I believe that what I have so far understood of the Tao Te Ching, comes very close to creating a coherent and compelling conception of meaning. Walking in the Tao – embracing simplicity, emptiness, and a pigheaded refusal to defer to more rational, "sophisticated" methods of going about things – inherently brings you closer to the world, and makes you a more harmonic part of it. The theory is that as people in the world become more "one" in this way, the world will come closer and closer to its harmonic ideal, or what the monotheists might call closer to God. I don't know how distinctions between humans and other animals factor into this. I don't know what that implies about death. But I do feel a sense of mission, and am doubtful about death being the end of absolutely everything. Something else is going on in a human life beyond chemical reactions and neurotransmissions.

I don't believe in the Protestant work ethic. I am unequivocally opposed to the notion of wage-slavery, though I realise there are not better ways around at the moment for me to get my livelihood. I don't believe in success. I don't believe in the pursuit of all fields of knowledge as equally important. I believe in the importance of doing people good; I suspect I might be able to contribute something in the form of written messages to the public, whether it be as a historian or as a novelist. I also believe it's okay to just find a job you're comfortable in and to try and do people good in more general ways. I believe in my right to leisure, and to not be overworked (as two separate rights).

I believe my depression. I don't want to deny outright the possibility that psychiatrists have found out useful things about depression, though I'm doubtful, but with me it seems fairly clear that it's an indication I'm going down a road that would lead to an almost certain and probably suicidal midlife crisis. I believe it's telling me my belief system is fucked up. Last time around, I fingered tribalism, traditionalist obedience, and competition (or winnerism, I suppose), as full-fledged members in the axis of evil, there joining adolescence favourites such as conformism and moral relativism. I believe it may be time for another detoxification.

I think it might have something to do with the more elusive ideology of competition – that the elite deserve their place and the downtrodden deserve theirs and that we should strive to join this blessed elite and ensure that this striving is perpetuated. It's pervasive and perversive, turning human relations into a kind of game where the stakes may be high but the attitude towards them frivolous, at least by the winners. All's fair in love, business, war, and politics, especially when what really matters is who wins rather than what is achieved. I am fully prepared to be considered a loser in all these games, but I have never fully considered my attitude toward actually becoming a player.

Losing in things is easy. Allowing rejections to hurt you is hard. Especially when the cause of the rejection is your hurt. Pain is required to demonstrate its reasonableness. Its tolerance in the face of willpower. If your pain is judged to in fact be of manageable levels, you're not a person in pain, you're an idiot. If your pain is judged to stem from unimpressive sources, it's not actually agony you're feeling, it's stupidity. I'm relatively okay with taking hits at my intelligence, because I feel fairly secure in it and the people implying this mainly seem very strangely impolite, but having my pain denied is soul-crushing. I cannot stop myself from giving credence to the idea. If a tree falls and crushes a man in the forest and no one is around to see it, does he still feel pain?

I believe in emotions. I believe emotions are all there is to people. Everything else is tacked on. I believe that every human interaction that does not deal in genuine emotion is a huge missed opportunity to do something that is not profoundly false. Everything else is a diversion; everything else is technicalities. Necessary, perhaps, but not meaningful.

I believe that the sick need care, and I believe that I am sick enough to justify far more intensive care than I am getting, and far greater leeway for recovery. But it's probably a stretch to expect emotional disorders to be treated properly before emotions themselves are.

I believe that belief has turned more into a motif than into the systematic kind of exposition I had in mind, but in retrospect I'm not sure the problem is a collision of values. It's the demands of a drastic lifestyle change. It's the question of how to go about expressing pain. Again I don't know how to wrap this up. That might be a good place to start. An expression of pain that doesn't pretend to fully explain itself.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Mist and Faith

So, thinking analytically about things dispels the mist. Feeling your way through gathers it. Feeling secure in a life shrouded in mist is having faith.

That's the aspect of having faith that always made sense in a religious context. Of course, dishonestly tied to it was the less sensible notion of accepting a very particular dogma, much of it to do with ethics that had little to do with what made intuitive sense.

What does faith in the misty life really entail? What does Daoism "require"? One of the recurring motifs is the need to emulate the Dao of heaven rather than the Dao of men. It's the differenc e between "going with the flow" as conformism and believing in a meaning to life that justifies and defuses inconvenience and discomfort. The postmodern atmosphere we live in makes people uncomfortable with concrete talk about "meaning", but pretty much everybody believe in the transcendence, so to speak, of self-respect, or love, and the sacrifices that are obviously worth making for their sakes. If we venture a little further out, the braver might agree on self-expression too.

All three of these things entail a show of faith that is not necessarily logically sound, or at least one that does not live up to the standards of strict exercise of criticism otherwise expected of educated and intelligent people. It's a question not of intelligence but of courage; not of weeding out lies but of asserting truth.
Faith implies a conviction that it is worth it, one way or another. Without knowing where the chips will fall, without even knowing you're in the right. Frankly, the combination between the critical attitude towards ideology and the uncritical towards emotions, people and myself confuses me, and the confusion is a large part of what frightens me. These attitudes do bleed into each other, though I undoubtedly err on the side of criticism more often. Becoming secular probably didn't help.

It's always depressing to hear of artists joining causes with reactionary forces - like Dali and Fascism, or the Romantics and nationalism. Anybody and religion. I think it might have to do (well, sometimes) with a feeling that, again, this darkness retains more room for expression and emotional vitality than the stale and conformist rationalism of political correctness. I have no idea how to wrap this up. I'm experiencing trouble not making the opposite mistake. Fascists are too scary.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Dark Recesses

It occurred to me that it is not an obvious choice of words to call these things dark. They're painful, frightening, different, sufficiently new so as to be as yet unknown. They're real - they're violently alive - but they're darkened.

Exploring darkness is exploring the forbidden. The desire to escape light is the desire to escape this repression. It's an attempt to escape and to some extent subvert emotional orthodoxy.

In principle I think things should be done independently of their shading, but it's difficult these days to feel the value of the accepted. It feels like it's corrupted by its association with conventions. I feel like I'm drowning in this fucking light far more than I am engulfed by darkness. The whole focus of the attempt at healing seems distorted. Psychiatric help is meant to bring your emotions back in line with your life, but it would make much more sense to bring your life in line with your emotions. It would make perfect, intuitive sense to everyone if this concept of a "diseased" emotionality did not exist. You can't have wrong emotions. Having wrong emotions is like being the wrong person. You can only have a wrong way of relating to yourself and to the world.

And the world can have a wrong way of relating to you. The darkness is imposed by it, inspired by it. The next step after acknowledging and living in darkness is to turn the lights on. When you look at what you don't understand without preconceptions, you see not darkness but the unfamiliar. I guess I need to rely on people to accept me as such, and it doesn't seem like too much of a safe bet.

Life is scary at the moment because it exposes me, inasmuch as it is lived. Clinical depression is not an ideal time to start being emotionally expressive. These emotions are even more challenging than the usual. I'm not used to being failed, to finding out for certain people are shit. Getting out there without any role-playing feels tantamount to a declaration of war on a frankly unknown mass of people. And the fact is I've never understood how people could feel secure that their lives won't fall to pieces without appropriately calculating their moves. How far is the distance between a social paranoiac and a legitimate pariah? In a world that manages itself so stupidly and arbitrarily, where are you supposed to get genuine self-confidence from?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Darkness Invisible

A few months ago I picked up Styron's Darkness Visible. It's a short book, but I'm a slow reader, so I was surprised to find myself reading it through in one sleepless night. I was disappointed. It's a succinct, no-nonsense account of an abrupt, extreme, psychotic and suicidal depressive episode experienced by an apparently unsentimental as well as "accomplished" old writer, and as such might serve as a good counter-argument to people doubting the validity of clinical depression in general or their own experience of it as a serious disease. What it conspicuously lacked, in its irritatingly laconic prose, reminding me of how bored I was reading Hemingway, was a vision of darkness.

More recently I tried to read Paradise Lost. I got bored of that pretty quickly. Pretty much as soon as I came across the phrase "darkness visible" and saw that it wasn't likely to play a major part in the poem. I've got Dante's Inferno lying around somewhere, so we'll see how that goes.

In spite of myself I feel a need to apologise for the apparent morbidity of this preoccupation, but I'm going to acknowledge the feeling rather than act on it. I think darkness is a major unacknowledged feature of clinical depression, disappointingly absent from my admittedly non-methodical ventures into its literature. A drive for darkness, I should say, because as well as being an overwhelming and almost unendurable reality, it also becomes a seductive promise and almost an object of yearning in its too complete disappearance or withdrawal. I think much of the widespread rumination about death has to do with this aura rather than (at least rather than exclusively) exasperation with life. I'm convinced that the tendency to stay in bed, to neglect yourself, has to do with some kind of suppressed fantasy of hitting rock bottom and thereby achieving some kind of release from the vapid mundanity of brightly flashing everyday fakery.

I'm vaguely familiar with a Freudian concept of a "death drive" but I really don't think this is it, at least not at its core. I think it's to do with an acknowledgement of an underlying and pervasive feature of reality as well as an appeal to mystery.

In a post that it almost three fucking years old and makes me feel like a dinosaur, I suggested that the appeal of the Greek Gods, to which from this distance I can also add that of the wrathful, fairly ruthless and terrifying Old Testament God, had exactly to do with the apparently paradoxical moral ambiguity, with the sense of danger and dark secrets. If nothing else, it suggests a human need to cultivate this kind of sinister adventurism, to tell creepy German fairy tales to shocked and exhilarated little kids.

In fact, we don't need to go very far to find evidence of this need. We can see it in black humour, in the strange fact that so many people willfully seek out movies that will make them scared or sad, in the fact that so-called more discriminating viewers will derive immense pleasure from such deeply dark and pessimistic TV shows as The Sopranos and The Wire. It helps explain to me why I get so irritated (and sometimes a little depressed) by the loud, aggressive chirpiness of all those anonymously worry-free sitcoms hatefully and eternally emblemised for me by my mortal enemy "Friends" for some reason.

It's alluded to absolutely brilliantly, I think, in Dexter's "Dark Passenger", which must be hidden at all costs if he is to stand a chance of fitting into society. It's echoed in the new Doctor Who's Doctor's shady and tragic (and suppressed) recent past. It's exemplified in Hamlet's bearing, despite all the moralising. The war on personality is also a war on darkness.

Much of this darkness revolves around the amoral. One obvious contrast with my life is that I'm a nice guy. I'm quite okay with being a nice guy, and I intend to keep on at it, and don't particularly want to hurt people, though I probably am a little overly anxious to avoid hurting them. On the other hand, much of morality is a crock of shit. There is no essential difference between the dynamics of the adult citizenry condemning a criminal for wrongdoing and the teenage group condemning a kid for the wrong haircut. I know because I had the educational privilege of growing up around a strangely deeply shallowly religious peer-group where to swear or smoke or dress immodestly was considered uncool.

If I wanted to create a representative image of this phenomenon, it might be of a group of Texans of deep moral conviction, draping their white bodies in white robes and pointed hats, off to lynch a black guy for sexually contaminating a pure member of their community in a love affair. It's all an infantile, obstinately simplistic conflation of colours and images, designed to keep everything as much the same as possible by means of any available sophistry and intimidation. The end result is all-around dehumanisation.

Part of the mysterious seduction of depression is that its darkness does not represent nothingness exactly. It's heavy to carry around, a kind of vacuum - occasionally it reminds me of The Nothing in The Neverending Story - it's a piercing hollowness that screams of the absence of something else, something meaningful that exists but is not at hand - that is at risk of not having any room for itself around and between all the buckets of bullshit that flood your insides.

It's not a question of overcoming depression. It's a question of integrating its lessons. I think depression, in its very sabotage of "functioning", is a cry out to be recognised as a person for your emotions rather than for your productivity; for your capacity for truth rather than your ability to satisfy others. A sad, thoughtful, and meaningful life is better, I am convinced, and ultimately happier, than a cheerful, mindless and insipid cruise towards death. It all hinges on the question of ultimate meaning. I can't say that I know what it is but I do feel it exists. And I feel that the attempt to limit my emotional horizon is robbing me of my opportunity of pursuing it.

It's probably significant that darkness and pain are where creativity comes from. Something happens, in that act of creation, of uncompromising truth. It's worthwhile giving it credit, rather than deciding you're smarter than your emotions and trying to engineer them towards winning some meaningless competition. I don't want to fucking play.