On Pain: Grin and Bare It

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Our whole life is an Irish Sea, wherein there is naught to be expected but tempestuous storms and troublesome waves, and those infinite…

—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.

—Bob Hope, American Comedian

It was the great Stoic, Marcus Aurelius who once enjoined the citizen in saying: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” As a comic fatalist I can concur with this. Saul Bellow would write in his own way the comic fatalist as stoic in Seize the Day! As he said in that work: “I want to tell you, don’t marry suffering. Some people do. They get married to it, and sleep and eat together, just as husband and wife. If they go with joy they think it’s adultery.”

I live with pain. Enough said. Yet, one learns to take it in stride like everything else in one’s life, one learns to not let it rule over one. Isn’t this one aspect of facing one’s life, that one has to make a choice toward one’s physical states. One can let the body rule one, one can try to rule it (not a real solution!), or one can just accept the inevitability of one’s degeneration into dust with equanimity and magnanimity. That sense of calmness and generosity toward one’s self, one’s own foibles and physical truth of age, disease, and ultimate demise and disappearance. Either to enter into the elegaic as in Rilke, or to become the bitter troubadour of spite as in Yeats. Or, one can stand amid the squalor and ruination of one’s being as in the ‘eye of a hurricane’ and admit that one has no control over these forces, but how magnificent to have been a part of this madness.

One of the issues one tries to resolve early on is one’s stance toward one’s body and its pain. Is this thing that sends messages of excruciating horror my way a part of me or not? The body is generally seen as a wonderful intricate machine operating on understandable principles that will be revealed by increasingly sophisticated scientific investigation. It includes a sensory nervous system whose function is to detect events in the world around us and within our own bodies. This sensory nervous system collects and collates all the available information and presents it in a form that generates pure sensation, according to the dualists. At this supposed frontier, the mind, which operates on entirely different principles, may inspect the sensory information and begin mental processes such as perception, affect, memory, self-awareness, and planning of action.1

Yada, yada, yada… we know it personally, or do we? The scientists and especially of late the neuroscientists will tell you all these states are illusionary states, just mixed signals from a subroutine of the body doing its job. Don’t you love such objective knowledge? No, of course not, not when you’re the one in the middle of a gout session, or had one’s leg blow off by and IED, or burned over half of your body by a fire in your home, or a wreck in your car, etc. One could care less about such objective descriptions. Such exact analysis and description never helped anyone in facing the day to day pain of physical or mental anguish.

One source hunter traced down all the words people use to describe pain to doctors. He found seventy commonly used words, which he sorted into categories. Some words, such as pricking or hot, seemed to be used just to describe the stimulus itself. For each of the classes of sensory word, the words were arranged in order of intensity; for example, hot, burning, scalding, searing. Then there was another class of words that he called affective, which described what the sensation was doing to the victim; for example, exhausting, sickening, punishing. Finally, he separated out words that he called evaluative, which expressed the degree of suffering; for example, annoying, miserable, unbearable. (ibid. KL 486)

They’ll even get to the nitty-gritty and tell you the culprit is the sensory nerve fibers. Sensory nerve fibers originate from clusters of cells that lie close to the spine, with one cluster or “ganglion” for each vertebra. A special ganglion lies in the base of the skull and supplies the face, mouth, and head. In the embryo, each cell puts out a short fiber that splits at a T-junction. One arm grows out into the tissue by way of the nerves. The other arm grows into the spinal cord with a large group of similar nerve fibers called the dorsal root, which contains all the fibers from the ganglion. The skin is profusely innervated with three types of sensory fibers. One group, called A beta fibers, are wrapped in a fatty protein called myelin and are sensitive to gentle pressure. The second group, called A delta fibers, are thinner and are sensitive to heavy pressure and temperature. The third group, called C fibers, are very thin and have no myelin and respond to pressure, chemicals, and temperature. Deep tissue and organs such as the heart, bladder, and gut are innervated only by the thinner fibers. (ibid. KL 5224)

Now I ask you, how does knowing what the specific material processes are that get the job done of sending you the freckking message that you’re in pain do to help you face it? Nada!

Then there are the pain doctors of the Sacred. I kid you not. Pain is not a simple matter they tell us: There is an enormous difference between the unwanted pain of a cancer patient or victim of a car crash, and the voluntary and modulated self-hurting of a religious practitioner. Religious pain produces states of consciousness, and cognitive-emotional changes, that affect the identity of the individual subject and her sense of belonging to a larger community or to a more fundamental state of being. More succinctly, pain strengthens the religious person’s bond with God and with other persons. Of course, since not all pain is voluntary or self-inflicted, one mystery of the religious life is how unwanted suffering can become transformed into sacred pain.2

I can’t speak to this being an atheist, but the last time I felt a connection to the great all it certainly wasn’t when I woke up with my left foot the size of a walrus and sending me gout messages that “Hey, Bug, we’re back in town and we’re here to hurt you in ways you haven’t even thought about.” No, God had nothing to do with my outlook toward that merciless shock running the gamut of my poor body into my little old foolish brain that triggered the tears and consciousness each second I moved or touched my foot to anything at all. Pain isn’t a religious experience, its a destitution, that’s what it is. Or, if truth be told: Pain is a god in his own right, one that tries to hold its power over every thought, every affect, every aspect of one’s life; a tyrant that want go away.

The German novelist Ernst Junger who would  resist Adolf Hitler’s offers of friendship in the late 1920s and declined to join the Nazi movement even after it came to power in Germany in 1933. Indeed, during Hitler’s chancellorship, he wrote a daring allegory on the barbarian devastation of a peaceful land in the novel Auf den Marmorklippen (1939; On the Marble Cliffs), which, surprisingly, passed the censors and was published in Germany. Jünger was dismissed from the army in 1944 after he was indirectly implicated with fellow officers who had plotted to kill Hitler. A few months later, his son died in combat in Italy after having been sentenced to a penal battalion for political reasons. In his book On Pain he gives one of the most personal accounts:

There are several great and unalterable dimensions that show a man’s stature. Pain is one of them. It is the most difficult in a series of trials one is accustomed to call life. An examination dealing with pain is no doubt unpopular; yet it is not only revealing in its own right, but it can also shed light on a series of questions preoccupying us at the present. Pain is one of the keys to unlock man’s innermost being as well as the world. Whenever one approaches the points where man proves himself to be equal or superior to pain, one gains access to the sources of his power and the secret hidden behind his dominion. Tell me your relation to pain, and I will tell you who you are!

Archeology is actually a science dedicated to pain; in the layers of the earth, it uncovers empire after empire, of which we no longer even know the names. The mourning that takes hold of us at such sites is extraordinary, and it is perhaps in no account of the world portrayed more vividly than in the powerful and mysterious tale about the City of Brass. In this desolate city surrounded by deserts, the Emir Musa reads the words on a tablet made of iron of China: “For I possessed four thousand bay horses in a stable; and I married a thousand damsels, of the daughters of Kings, high-bosomed virgins, like moons; and I was blessed with a thousand children, like stern lions; and I lived a thousand years, happy in mind and heart; and I amassed riches such as the Kings of ‘ I the regions of the earth were unable to procure, and I imagined that my enjoyments would continue without failure. But I was not aware when there alighted among us the terminator of delights and the separator of companions, the desolator of abodes and the ravager of inhabited mansions, the destroyer of the great and the small and the infants and the children and the mothers. We had resided in this palace in security until the event decreed by the Lord of all creatures, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the earths, befell us.” Further, on a table , of yellow onyx were graven the words: “Upon this table have eaten a thousand one-eyed Kings, and a thousand Kings each sound in both eyes. All of them have quitted the world, and , taken up their abode in the burial-grounds and the graves.”3

As Robert Burton would say of the above “Be silent then, rest satisfied, comfort thyself with other men’s misfortunes…”:

How many thousands want that which thou hast! how many myriads of poor slaves, captives, of such as work day and night in coal-pits, tin-mines, with sore toil to maintain a poor living, of such as labour in body and mind, live in extreme anguish, and pain, all which thou art free from! Thou art most happy if thou couldst be content, and acknowledge thy happiness. We know the value of a thing from the wanting more than from the enjoying; when thou shalt hereafter come to want, that which thou now loathest, abhorrest, and art weary of, and tired with, when ’tis past, thou wilt say thou werest most happy: and, after a little miss, wish with all thine heart thou hadst the same content again, might’st lead but such a life, a world for such a life: the remembrance of it is pleasant. Be silent then, rest satisfied, comfort thyself with other men’s misfortunes…4

But as I look at my poor foot I see that this, too, is bitter consolation. Contemplating the history of misfortune, of pain, secular or sacred is of little comfort, and is in fact the least of my anguishes. No. For each of us pain is personal and not something we can share with others, and in fact we along with most try out best to just get on with it: which means, we try to forget it, deny it, just pretend and hope it will go away soon. But it sits there like a little demon chiding us with its merciless pitchfork, continuously reminding us that it, not us, is in charge of this force of anguish. But is it? Can we discover a way to confront it directly or indirectly?

Doctors would hand you a pill and say come back in a couple weeks and let’s see how things go. Little comfort there, but at least you get dead zone in the pit of the brain that wipes out whole affective regions. But is this a good thing? Here’s what the blurbs tell you about that from WebMD: Pain management is important for ongoing pain control, especially if you suffer with long-term or chronic pain. After getting a pain assessment, your doctor can prescribe pain medicine, other pain treatments, or psychotherapy to help with pain relief.  In one article on car crash victims we discover this about opioid’s:

For treating persistent pain after a car crash, prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) are no more effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen, a new study finds.

Of course opioids have come under fire of late in studies on addiction. As one Doctor says: “Now that opioids are under fire, it’s forcing us to ask: ‘What is the best treatment, who is it best for and under what conditions?’ ” Beaudoin said in a university news release. “As an emergency physician, I prescribe these drugs all the time. Does what I am giving to people have any impact on the pain outcomes that matter to them?” she added. In their study they discovered that those who were initially prescribed opioids, which can be highly addictive, were 17.5 percent more likely to still be taking the drugs after six weeks, according to the study. Then we discover that Opioid painkiller abuse is a leading public health crisis in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So for the long haul maybe drugs are not the answer, unless you want an even worse problem than the pain you’re suffering. So is there an answer? Philosophy, Religion, Medicine? WebMD offers a 11 point plan as if it was a part of a salvage operation: Meditation, reduced stress, exercise and endorphin plunges, quit drinking liquor, join a support group of chronic pain believers, stop smoking cigarettes (what about my Mary J? :)), track your pain (oh boy as if I needed a reminder!), biofeedback, go to a masseuse, eat healthy (haha!), and, best of all learn to distract yourself from your pain. Oh, the wonders of modern medical help… lovely remedies. I wonder if the people who write these things up live it?

Well, in the end I don’t think there is some Universal answer to pain, pain is unique, singular, and it is very much real to one’s actual or illusionary consciousness: it lives there 24/7 without let up. You can take that to the bank… of all the remedies I’d agree to that last one: distraction… that’s why I’m writing this essay. To keep my mind off that throbbing sensation that keeps pooping in my mind, dualistic or not. More like a Poe guillotine swinging and swinging and swinging… the inevitable is over us and its getting closer with each swing.

Nietzsche once divided men (what about women?) into the weak and strong, the weak suffer pain like cowards while the strong cheerfully accept pain and suffering. In the Genealogy of Morals he writes that man is “a sickly animal: but suffering itself was not his problem, but the fact that there was no answer to the question he screamed, ‘Suffering for what?’ … The meaninglessness of suffering, not the suffering, was the curse which has so far blanketed mankind.” On Nietzsche’s view, health and strength is a matter of a positive attitude towards life and all of its sufferings: to be strong and healthy just consists in embracing and in this sense overcoming suffering in all of its forms. The weak or sick person, on the other hand, is one who despairs over the fact that he or she suffers, who is hostile to and resents suffering. Strength is thus a form of optimism in the face of suffering, and weakness a form of pessimism. So the kind of health and strength Nietzsche is concerned with is psychological health and strength. And this, for him, is all about the attitude we take to the suffering that is an unavoidable feature of life. True psychological health involves welcoming affirming life and all of its suffering.

Nietzsche wrote this because, he, too, suffered the truth of this life. One usually writes about what one knows, even if one displaces it into philosophical presumption and heroics. In the end we all turn away into our own solitary caves and suffer in our own unique way. What else is there? Crack a joke, a smile, tell the healthy who come by all smiley and bubbles and health and ask you: “How are you feeling today?” Turn toward them and wink, then say: —”I’m feeling like shit, okay?” – Then pick up a book and throw it at them, or take your shoes off and wallop them, pitch them out… tell them “I’m freckking feeling …. painnnnnn”. Then return to one’s indifference and equanimity…

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Red Skelton the American Comedian and artist of clowns, himself a clown handed down a credo:

“Live by this credo: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.”

— Red Skelton

With that I’ll say with my smiley face: “Have a nice day all!” And, with my pessimist grumpiness and curmudgeon best, say: “Well, so it goes…”


  1. Wall, Patrick. Pain: The Science of Suffering (Maps of the Mind) (Kindle Locations 306-311). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Glucklich, Ariel. Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul (p. 6). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Tanner, Harold M. China: A History (Volume 1): From Neolithic Cultures through the Great Qing Empire, (10,000 BCE – 1799 CE) Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (March 15, 2010)
  4. Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. New York Review Books; 1st edition (April 9, 2001)

I’ll Admit It…

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I’ll admit it. All my life I’ve been for the little guy, the poor, the innocent, the minorities, the outcasts of all nations and times. I’ve always hated the Plutocrats and Oligarchs who use their riches through foundations to sway politicians and politics, to use corporate fascist tyrannies to impose sweat shops and horrendous forms of capitalism across the Third World.

I actually affirmed the Communist Idea in principle at one time, but no more. I’ve tended toward anarchic non-statist forms of thought, but that too gets us nowhere.

I’ve listened to the likes of Nick Land, whose techno-commercial optimization of capital intelligence and pushing it to its limits, etc. would destroy not only the human species but likely the earth itself. That gets us nowhere.

Climate types like the Greens are closer to some religious vision, which would lead us into strange places. We cannot go the way of such as Derrick Jensen and the bashers of civilization, either. Such would be to doom us to the eventual decay and decadence of resource depletion with no way forward. There can be no return to Nature, no Rousseauist return to the pre-industrial wild. That would spell death within the organic tomb of night.

Yet, we can see that democracy in the global sense has failed us. Our leaders have failed us. Our politics has failed us. With climate change and a Sixth Extinction Event ongoing we turn a blind eye, we worry more about our immediate survival needs of day to day living. Which is understandable for most of us at the street level. Yet, our supposed leaders should no better, but instead we’ve allowed a fantasy world of conservatives to take power because we could not vote for real change (and, Hilary was not real change, just like the false promises of Obama and this past 8 years did very little for the little guy or working class).

The recent invasion of Native Lands by Oil Corporations, and the bald face blackout of mainstream media of this event is telling. Mainstream media is controlled by Corporate interests, and it should now be our motive to change mediatainment and return it to the people. Mainstream media is and has become the Enemy of the People. There should now be a class war against this…

And it is about the working classes and their survival, not the middle-class drift of neo-technologists and information citizens. We’ve lost sight of class warfare. We’ve lost sight of democracy. We have no vision, no plan, nothing but rage and bitterness. Will we turn this rage and bitterness to good effect, dig deep back into our past and reformulate a world view worth fighting for, or will we just piss away our time attacking the Republicans? Time to reschool ourselves in what it meant at one time to be a Democrat, to let the Corporate Democratic Establishment die its death and rebuild the Democratic Party with actual people of the Class of Democracy.

Hope is not in my vocabulary. As a full blow pessimist I’m neither of the depressive realist kind, nor some moody curmudgeon in the total misanthropic sense, but rather a comic pessimist who looks with a scribblers eye upon the world. If pride comes before a fall, we’ve allowed our human pride to overreach its limits. The eldest of Greek poems The Iliad had at its core the notion of hamartia and hubris: the fatal flaw and the sin of excessive pride or self-confidence. We’ve seen the global corporate nations build their empires of war, death, and destruction across our planet. We’ve allowed it without saying or doing much of anything. We’ve allowed the economic system that was meant to work for the people to enslave the world in its network of global surveillance, criminality, and darkness. We already live in a dystopian society the likes of which the planet has never seen, and yet we speak of it with the tongues of media pundits paid by the very Corporate powers that control it.

I’m an old man, so many don’t give a shit what I think or say. But say it I will. I’m tired of the lies of Left and Right, tired of propaganda systems that have fictionalized reality to the point that people have no clear vision of life anymore. There is no meaning left… we are a completed nihilism saturated by false images and meanings. As my friend R. Scott Bakker would have it we’ve already entered the ‘Crash Space’ of history where meaning is without even its valueless appendages. We have only one thing left… Zero. The turnstile of time. We are at that point that it could go either way for the planet and the human species. I want be here to see it. But those born in this generation will meet it head on. What shall we do? Will we allow this farce to go on? Are will we no longer except the antics and farce of politics as usual, listen to the corrupt and corrupting media, live our lives in lies? Isn’t it time to speak out, to take up one’s own life and do something, anything? Shall we sit back forever an allow the species to go out as Eliot once said with a “whimper”?

With all the greatness I’ve seen in humans in my time and in art, literature, philosophy, poetry, etc. do we want it to end? Will we allow hate and bigotry, malfeasance and corruption, the power and enslavement in invisible walls of data and surveillance, corporate greed and social orders build on lies and fabrications of mediatainment to continue? Is this our future, to lay down and let the profiteers walk over us? I dare say not. It’s time to get up off our butts and do something about this, we cannot afford to continue down this path.

As I’ve been rereading the old tales from ancient to modern cultures I see a certain resilience, a humility and courage that prevails in the harshest of times, a people of rugged yet sensual appeal that knows how terrible the elements can be, yet also knows that people must forge alliances, have the courage of their convictions, build order out of chaos and survive against all odds not against each other, but against those who would enslave their minds or bodies. We must be against all forms of tyranny everywhere, and no longer allow even our own minds to be tempted by fascistic forms of thought and feeling. Time to change.

In the back of my mind is the term ‘duopoly’ – the notion in Modern American politics, in particular the electoral college system has been described as duopolistic since the Republican and Democratic parties have dominated and framed policy debate as well as the public discourse on matters of national concern for about a century and a half. Third Parties have encountered various blocks in getting onto ballots at different levels of government as well as other electoral obstacles, such as denial of access to general election debates.

In books like Mike Lofgren’s The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, Peter Scott Dale’s The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy, Tom Engelhart’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, and James Risen’s recent Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. In these and so many other books we learn that our democracy is no run by Corporatocracy on both sides of the fence, whether Democratic Corporatists or Republican Oil and Beltway. It no longer makes much difference who we put in office. Trump is a billionaire who already belongs to that Club.

Even Thomas Frank in his recent Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? tells us of the demise of traditional democratic party which has become a form of corporate and cultural elitism that has largely eclipsed the party’s old working-class commitment, he finds. For certain favored groups, this has meant prosperity. But for the nation as a whole, it is a one-way ticket into the abyss of inequality. In this critical election year, Frank recalls the Democrats to their historic goals-the only way to reverse the ever-deepening rift between the rich and the poor in America.

Robert B. Reich is another outcast scholar who has addressed the working people. In Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few Reich exposes the falsehoods that have been bolstered by the corruption of our democracy by huge corporations and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street: that all workers are paid what they’re “worth,” that a higher minimum wage equals fewer jobs, and that corporations must serve shareholders before employees. He shows that the critical choices ahead are not about the size of government but about who government is for: that we must choose not between a free market and “big” government but between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver the most gains to the top. Ever the pragmatist, ever the optimist, Reich sees hope for reversing our slide toward inequality and diminished opportunity when we shore up the countervailing power of everyone else.

I’m not as hopeful, nor an optimist at all. But one should read and glen information of these topics where one can. To me that’s the point, we need to move beyond ideological blinkers and discover information that will help real people, not further some false political goal, but rather one that actually works in our day to day struggles to attain a richer more embracing vision of existence. Even if we’re entering an age that many believe will prove a vast ruination and struggle for the very survival of our species and the planetary civilization ahead of us, we should no put on ideological blinkers of either party, but remain true to the core democratic principles of civilization itself and create a viable sustainable world for the living. Hope or Despair have nothing to do with such things… only the stark truth of our situation in the world.

Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate is another solid critical work of facticity and factuality that glens the underpinnings of our challenges, makes us become participants from whatever affiliation you want to perceive yourself. As she argues climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Is it too little, too late? The point is that if we do nothing, we assure our demise at some future point. So to sit back apathetically is to doom your children or your children’s children to the nth point along the line. As she argues such that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

We see in in the Native American Pipeline protest movement that has been left out of the current political cycle by both parties and mainstream media. A fight over the route of a new pipeline is gaining momentum while it plays out in court. Hundreds of Native Americans from tribes across the United States are protesting in North Dakota. They’re setting up camp at the site where the pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri River. Reporter Amy Sisk of the public radio collaboration Inside Energy says the group is finding an eager ally in environmental groups. As Amy Sisk for NPR states: “This pipeline is their latest target. It’s here in this remote part of North Dakota where hundreds of people are now camped out in the grassy prairie close to the construction. That site is near but not on the reservation. Further north in Bismarck, trains carrying oil safely cross Missouri River bridges every day. Jon Eagle Sr. is Standing Rock’s historic preservation officer. Today he’s rallying the protesters with his microphone.” BBC reports the life in the camps.

Our immediate problems are economic rather than all the other pressures facing us in the world. How we face rebuilding a nation’s infrastructure, jobs, small towns (that have fallen by the wayside into drugs, alcohol, and erasure?), overcome urban racism, sexism, gender issues, etc. will come to the fore in the years ahead? We live in stubborn and aggravating times, but we should seek out that within us that has made the human species both a strange and wondrous natural phenomenon in a universe that for the most part sees us as mere accident. Whatever we are we can overcome our stupidity and work together to overcome our problems, but only if the ideological blinkers of both parties can compromise and cooperate in the name and for the people they serve. It’s not about politicians, it’s about the people of the earth now. As it has been all along. We must begin in our backyards, our towns, our cities, our actual not fantasy lives to enact the truth from within ourselves that we are. We must begin…

Addendum: One commenter thought I left everything vague and incomplete. Isn’t realty incomplete? So am I…

Why should everything have to be spelled out? Reality is not clear and reasonable, why should everything be expected to be clear and reasonable? It isn’t. No. I’m not a reader of Krishnamurti… but other more contemporary neuroscientists and philosophers who no longer affirm a fixed Self or Subject, but rather an incomplete ongoing project of making and creation… I’m not Eastern, but Western… why should I use those categories or appropriate them for discussion when their not on my radar? I leave that for others… Comic pessimism faces the world with neither a blunt, cold eye; nor, with an optimistic hopefulness, but rather sees within reality and incompleteness and indifference to the human to which our own response should be one of comic absurdity, because reality isn’t human we no longer need to reduce it to our human categories. As Nietzsche affirmed and Bataille after him, laughter is the proper response. If I did (which I want) offer a figure from Eastern thought it would be the Laughing Buddha.

Legend has it that the Laughing Buddha is based on the life of a Buddhist monk who lived in the 10th century China. He was a bit too eccentric for a monk, but his loving ways and jovial countenance soon earned him many followers. He is considered a reincarnation of Gautama Buddha and is most welcome and loved everywhere he goes as he brings the energy of light heartedness, joy and laughter.

“And let that day be lost to us on which we did not dance once! And let that wisdom be false to us that brought no laughter with it!” – Nietzsche

Dionysian Pessimism rather than the staid cold grey world of depressive pessimism…

In some ways the notion of magnanimity sums up my stance toward world and others. The notion of great-heartedness and generosity of being. Why should we join Heraclitus the tearful? Why not rather the equanimity of Lucretius who taught us to fear not the truth of life? For the Greeks arête or excellence in Mind and Life was the pinnacle of being human. Who am I to disagree with such things? Aristotle in the Nimomachaen Ethics would speak of the great-souled man, whose disposition toward life and others was base on this sense of magnanimity. One who could overlook the slights of others, one who lived above the riff-raff of the panderers and mean-spirited, etc. Who am I to say this is not the just (good) life? One finds within oneself certain dispositions toward existence that come with the brain’s own driveness. We have spun millions of words to try to understand all these things about the human and the universe for thousands of years. And still we are in the dark, as children. Who are we to stop this process… there is no end to questioning life.

I would affirm with Socrates only ignorance. Who am I to put and end to people’s questions? With every generation new questions arise, new children are born who will seek new answers. We are all in the dark now, and yet we fill the void, the gap, with our thoughts, our meanings the best we can. This is to be human… I am but one among a myriad of those who know they do not know, and yet we persist in asking the old questions.

Philosophia (the pursuit of Wisdom) is not wisdom itself. We seek it in ourselves and in the world, but find mere fragments strewn upon the shore of being like sands on a seashore. No one holds firm substance, rather we are all in the dark night of the world peering at the decay of man. What will remain of this moment of our humanity?

I’m just one more voice in the insanity… hopefully kinder and more gentle even in my own raging … Something funny, I lost 26 followers from this one post… I’ll assume I struck some kind of nerve?

( Probably a loan-translation of Greek megalopsykhos “high-souled, generous” (Aristotle) or megathymus “great-hearted.”)

 

The Madness of Youth and Philosophy

I was reading Robin Mackay’s little intro to Nick Land’s life and work this morning, thinking not about Land himself so much as listening to Mackay himself and his transition into academia:

When I arrived, in 1992, at Warwick University – a dour, concrete campus set in the UK’s grey and drizzling Midlands – I was a callow and nervous teenager, also filled with the hope that philosophy would afford me access to some kind of ‘outside’ – or at the very least, some intellectual adventure. Almost entirely overcome with disappointment and horror at the reality of academic life within weeks, it was a relief to meet one lecturer who would, at last, say things that really made sense: Think of life as an open wound, which you poke with a stick to amuse yourself. Or: Philosophy is only about one thing: making trouble.

It actually evoked my own memories of another era: 1968 – 1972. I was sixteen. I hated my step-dad. I, like many of my 60’s compatriots left home, hit the streets, stuck out my thumb and wandered the asphalt jungle of America from one end to another. I called it my ‘great adventure’. Like many teenagers of the era I was an idiot, a dream full of hot-headed ideas: dreams of drugs, girls, rock & roll, California, buses painted like Clockwork Orange, a gang of long-haired freaks to name as friends, a world of freedom, a realm of pure contingency, excitement, anger, anti-war demonstrations, acid: orange sunshine, purple-doubledomes, blue microdot, music man, blotters – mary jane: Thai sticks and a dozen flavors of South American fare – crank, horse, peyote, uppers/downers… a sort of smorgasbord world of accident, timing, and utter chaos. We lived in a dream world trying to forget our parents utopian dream of riches and capitalism. Viet Nam hung over our heads like a stain, a piece of shit that no one wanted to drop. The age of the Draft, when numbers seemed like a Wheel of Fortune based on one’s birth: we were all suckers, and we knew it. Life seemed to follow Death rather than the other way round. And we seemed to follow annihilation like a home brewed apocalypse waiting for its chance to emerge somewhere around the nuclear waste-dumps of some New Mexico test laboratory.

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