Contrivance and Self-Delusion

This is my dilemma.

A little while ago I decided it was time to starting writing about something -- anything. I wasn't sure what I would say, but there was so much to talk about: the politics of imperialism and the grand egalitarian illusion of Rightness, metaprogramming and the quest for self, the timelessness of motion and its moment in the Middle East, the writer's penchant for overinflated pretense in the selection of subject matter... So very, very much to talk about. And then a month passed. Every idea was too predictable. Every thought was too uninformed. Every introspection was too shallow, yet too forced. I had the world, and it was empty. So I finally broke it down: if there was nothing to write about, that would be my subject. All I had to do was to find that little voice that was holding me back and let it speak for itself.

It only took four shots of cheap whiskey:

I do not have an original thought in my head.

It's absolutely crucial that we establish this fact before we move along any further. There is nothing I am going to say that is unique or pure or clear. There is nothing I am going to say more eloquently than the parade of philosophers before me, or more beautifully than the countless poets and singers who have graced the earth. The best we can hope for is that I might say something you haven't heard before or that I might present something from a slightly different angle than you have seen it in the past or that my words might be a little more pleasing than those of the rampaging drunk on the bus next to you tomorrow morning. Unless you own a car. Or you read anything deeper than USA Today. Or you own one beautiful album.

I doubt you need this clarification. If we have anything in common, it is probably a deep vein of cynicism that runs from your head to your ass and orients your thoughts accordingly. The world probably seems very small and very gray at times and very muted. Philosophical debate is little more to you than detached technical jargon, desperately wheezing for some hope of human experience -- which you more than likely have in abundance. Political commentary is little more than middle-aged virgins in bow ties spouting lies or finishing your sentences for you. Introspective personal essays unearth no emotions you felt after age fourteen, and should they chance to tread upon foreign waters of the soul it is only by virtue of contrivance and self-delusion.

I empathize.

This is world we find ourselves in. Everything is recycled. Everything is old. Everything is decrepit and nostalgic and brittle and flawed and faded. Make no mistake, my friend, you are little more than a re-run, and you're not even prime-time. We're all in same boat, here, and of course we're all too damn smart for it. Look around at all those poor fools surrounding you, so smug in their self-satisfied ignorance. Don't worry, my friend, we're above them -- just you and I.

You see, I can relate to you. I know you. It's like we're soul brothers. Or siblings. Incestuous distant relations, at the very least. Pound your chest in time with me and let us join for a moment of Guaranteed-Authentic bonding. Admit it! There's some ancient pre-agrarian blood beating warm in your heart right now at the prospect of real flesh and unchained emotion -- naked humanity at its sweatiest.

You pompous jackass.

Admit it! You're a drunk and an insomniac, driven forward by no more than nearly-satiable appetites and the force of lazy habit. You're not even motivated by anything pure or decent, like the lust for fame or a calculating social conscience. Fear is nothing more to you than a mid-day traffic jam and passion is a black-tie affair at the local Olive Garden.

... and on, and on, and on.

This is the everyday voice that accompanies me wherever I go, and informs any decision that I make. It remains hidden, subtle, until I find myself in some quiet moment, some unique state of reflection -- and then it finds its voice. Sometimes, it finds mine: there are quite a few places where I am no longer welcome because of this. I haven't seen its face, but I know it has one. I'm tempted to name it, for sake of convenience if nothing else, but it would be too satisfied with that kind of recognition. Good lord, can you imagine what it would say?

This is the same voice that convinced me to spent an entire summer unemployed, reclusive, and completely nocturnal, my door locked, my windows barricaded with cardboard and foil, endlessly Photoshopping naked women to look like corpses while listening to Mojo Nixon's You Can't Kill Me over and over and over and over again. This is the same voice that convinced me that the government was out to get me, and then encouraged me to skulk around my neighborhood at four in the morning until the cops threw me in jail. It's not enough that's it's relentlessly pessimistic and emotionally caustic. It's not enough that it's paranoid past all rationality -- I mean, it's tried to convince me that my cat was staging an elaborate plot against me. My cat. No, it's not the negativity or the pointlessness or the madness, it's the tone. It sounds like a flustered professor of British classics at an east coast prep school, fretting over a sophomore production of some god-forsaken Neil Simon play. "... Passion is a black-tie affair at the local Olive Garden?" Seriously, we all have our demons, but do they have to sound so much like a bad Kevin Spacey routine?

Recently I've been having a lot of dreams about murder. I ride around in my head almost like a passenger, stabbing or shooting my way through friends, acquaintances, and strangers. There is a sense of horror and guilt to it, but it's a casual, perfunctory feeling, like the obligatory sadness you find at a funeral for some family friend with whom you were pleasant, yet distant. The plots vary, but I always wind up with blood on my hands. Sometimes it's a spectacular Hollywood production, in which I'm the cop and the killer and the victim. Sometimes it has a detached videogame quality to it. It's rarely very savage, although it's usually pretty messy.

Conventional dream analysis seems to paint a fairly bleak picture of all this. Oh, I'm a weasel, racked with shame. Oh, I'm twisted with sorrow and failure. Oh, I must learn to control my temper. No, no, and no. Well, more like a yes, a yes, and a yes, but qualified yeses. Qualified to the point of irrelevance. I cannot stress enough how little these yeses count... My point here is that my interpretation is a bit different: I see these dreams as symbolic of a psychological housecleaning process that I've begun just recently, and that's been due for a long, long time. There are a lot of these little voices running around in my head, being snippish and causing all kinds of trouble, and I have initiated no less than a total and complete pogrom against them.

The problem that is beginning to reveal itself to me -- even as I write this -- is that the wholesale slaughter and repression of key aspects of my personality is really probably not in my best long-term interests. Lately I've found myself being presented with almost limitless opportunities to reshape my mind, and it's time that I start using them sanely. I'll start here, in words, and I'll start with unification. This name -- Nation -- has been rattling around in the back of my head for a while. Until now, I didn't quite know why.

So this is what I have to say. There will be more. I don't know where it will be, I don't know when it will come, but there will be more. Lord knows what we'll talk about, but at least we'll know why. This isn't about Crowley or Jung or dopamine addiction or the Tao or even your mom -- it's about me learning to be less of a pompous jackass. Not so romantic, not so sophisticated, not so very terribly profound. It's less like making sweet love to a sea of eyeballs than it is like losing your virginity on a rickety bicycle in front of the corner Stop-N-Go while an old man reeking of stale Mad Dog screams obscenities about your mother. Sure, it's awkward and dirty and the whole thing looks pretty ridiculous, but you know what? In the end, it feels pretty good.

So be it. This is Nation.

This is my introduction to the world.




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