Middle class means, bourgeois tastes, proletarian values

On Ghosts

In Personal Derelictions on April 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Today, I had to use another bathroom because the one I usually use has a clogged toilet; and I remembered that, many years ago, the witchdoctor told us never to use the door to that bathroom because it is a doorway to the spirit world. My sister was having a little ghost problem and she suspected one was in love with her: She once took a photo of herself and a ghost-like figure was clearly clinging to her. That bathroom had two doors (two rooms share it) and I could have gone to the other room to use that door, but I know we live in Euclidean space, and that door could not have been a portal to anything else apart from the only unclogged toilet that I had access to. Considering the clogged toilet, the only portal to Certain Doom anyone needs to be aware of is the door to my bathroom.

My friend M. supposes she has the ability to smell other dimensions because sometimes she smells people who are not there. She has a supernatural nose, which is similar in mechanism perhaps with a supernatural eye, but it smells ghosts rather than sees them. It has the benefit of not being quite as frightening as seeing as ghost, tho smells can be just as scary, if they are smelly enough. Do ghosts emit smells? We have an unqualified preoccupation with seeing ghosts, sometimes even hearing ghosts, most of the time both, and, under the most dire of circumstances, even touching ghosts, but never smelling ghosts, or, as a matter of fact, tasting ghosts: The paranormal institutions of our age simply neglect these two senses, tho they can, as my friend shows, just as well pick up transmissions from ghostly realms.

Not to say her other senses weren’t as potent. She described to me once how a ghost visited her, and she could hear it, telling her commit evil. She knew if she opened her eyes, she would be able to see it, so she didn’t; and then it just disappeared. I didn’t ask her how this ghost smelled like because it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. How, in any case, is that supposed to go? Imagine a paranormal investigator from Vienna: Bald head, goatee, hair all white, lean figure, expensive brown suit, standing in a room with a pentagram drawn using blood on the wall, threats of child sacrifice for Satanic rituals written in small cursive on notes scattered around the room, candles dripping everywhere, and when told of the particulars of the scene, he then asks: “No, no, but what did it smell like?”

Imagine the poor concerned mother, whose child walked up the walls like a spider with her joints contorted in unnatural ways, the voice of which now resembled how would imagine Satan sounds like, deep and booming voice, the child’s eyes bleeding and her projectile vomit the consistency of frozen pea soup: “What? My child smells awful.”

“Yes, but before?”

“I’m not comfortable with all this talk about smells, professor.”

“Madam,” the professor says. “I am a ghost detective from Vienna with a white goatee. I demand you treat me with respect!”

The house in which I live, in any case, has been called haunted many times. House helpers tell me that when my family is away, they hear some type of party going on in the kitchen. Sometimes they hear voices calling them. My family members talk of spirits grabbing their feet while going up the stairs. My friend who visited once, A., once told me she felt a “presence” from the living room. I used to find this interesting until I realized that most people have ghosts in their houses. If, indeed, the ghost world intersects with the ordinary world, then ghosts must be everywhere. It just so happens that we are at our most vulnerable when we are at our homes, where we tend to relax. So we are able to more often perceive them, even at their most subtle.

The theory that some people can transcend the boundary between this world and other worlds is interesting to me mostly because it is funny to think that creatures on the other side could be going about their business and we bother them just as they bother us; and on some distant dimension, the Tentacle People of Ar’Garack speak by breathing through the thin membranes of their anuses: “I saw another human!”

“No you did not Spak’La’Mak, you lair, says Bwa’P. “HAMKA, HAMKA, HAMKA,” goes the Ar’Garack laugh, which are, basically, controlled, melodic farts.

“I did!” says Spak’La’Mak. “It was touching a protruding member from its midsection! Very disturbing! Must be a sign of distress because it was writhing and moaning!”

“Humans are strange,” says Bwa’P, who vomits the food he ate earlier for the second round of digestion, their equivalent of having a snack.

Moreover, the boy who, if the exchange was mutual, saw Spak’La’Mak would of course tell his friends; and if the friends ask what he was doing when he saw them, he would respond politely: “Reading Chekov.”

Personally, I do not know if ghosts exists, nor do I have a definite position on the issue. What I do know is that some things exist regardless of whether you believe in them or not; I also know that some things are, at present, unknown, and in my mind there is always space for these things to exist, though we may misinterpret them, exaggerate them, misunderstand them, or ignore them. Every evening I hear creaks throughout the house as well as footsteps on the roof too heavy to have been caused by a cat. I tell this to friends and they ask me: “Aren’t you afraid?” If they have been around me since I was a child and they’ve never come down to meet me, clearly one of us is afraid of the other. Obviously, it is not me.

On Failure

In Personal Derelictions on April 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm


1. My friend once asked me if I spent most of my time outside my room, because, to her, my room looked like a prison. It is a straightforward box with cabinets to one side, a desk and bookshelf on the adjacent wall, and windows only on the upper part of the western wall, facing the cabinets. When inside, therefore, one can only ever see the sky, never the street. Outside, there is a single telephone pole beside the house across the street, and a telephone line is stark black against bright blue. The window is barred. I suppose it is similar to a prison.

Now, I frequently lie in bed, sideways, to look at the sky; and I remember as a very small child (so small my memory of it is at present almost dreamlike) looking at the sky through the same window, realizing, for the first time, that clouds sometimes move. Now that I play the ukulele, and because it is small enough, I tuck it under my arm during hot afternoons and play songs while watching the sparrows on the bars of the window or on top of the telephone pole. What, I wonder, could they be seeing? And do they see me, playing my ukulele, singing, in my boxer shorts and with tangled hair? Sometimes they sing along with me, or it seems that way. Sometimes someone honks the horn of a car and I think it is because they are annoyed at me.

It was during such day that my friend, W., slumped over the single comfortable chair upon which I read and write, said: “What do you want to do with your life? Do you want to stay here forever?” and it was a terrifying thought, not so much being stuck in the house so much as simply being stuck.

She said this while I sang Womanizer (Spears, 2008). I stopped.

“I write things,” I said. “Sometimes.” I looked at her by tilting my head backwards because she was behind me, and she looked to me upside-down. “I find writing quite enjoyable.”

She breathed out, as if she’s heard it before. She would occasionally support me and tell me to submit things to get my career moving, but she didn’t appear to have the energy to reiterate such sentiments today. It was very hot.

2. After several art exhibits, I’ve frequently wandered in the bathroom and wondered if I have stumbled into an art gallery. I realize: It is only the toilet, not an installation.

Just the other day, my friend M. and I were at a gallery, and I suppose one could call the art there, comfortably, “contemporary” or “conceptual” art, primarily because the skill involved is close to none, if any; and as a student I used to argue that these types of art are justifiable insofar as, according to Mr. Barthes, the author is dead (for, in modernism, God himself has died, along with his many faces: Nation, Religion, Government…). The Birth of the Reader, he said, must come at the expense of the Death of the Author; and thus art such as this requires that the interpretation be the responsibility of the viewer.

Yet, is it so difficult to ask the artist to work with you? The Death of God becomes quite the chore if we must merely be burdened by his corpse, and the artist simply nags on and on about how dead God is, the artist as he who points at the same damn corpse all the damn time: “Look! God is dead! Look! God is dead! Look! God is dead!” Alright! And of the human condition? Of love, death, sex, revenge, sadness, hunger, and deceit? “Look!” says the contemporary, the “conceptual” artist. “God is dead! Do you want to play in its corpse?”

3. One thing that I have never been able to do correctly is chess. There is thinking involved that I simply cannot accomplish. I remember attempting to play it as a child. I had a chess set and I arranged the pieces randomly on the board, simply admiring their beauty. It was a small, magnetic type; and the small plastic figures were so beautiful to me, so intricate and detailed, even if they were tiny, barely the size of a third of a finger. My father saw me and said, “You don’t know how to play chess.” I was seven.

So he proceeded to teach me. This particular piece goes here. I asked: “Can he go here? Can I arrange my castle this way? I, in any case, am the King, correct?” He shook his head and placed the piece back where it belongs. “No,” he said. I found this strange: I am, in any case, king, am I not? Or, considering the King is in fact just another piece, then I am, in fact, God, and these pieces are my subjects, to which my Will is Absolute Law.

Yet, I am not the Judeo-Christian God, who is, as Aquinas put it, ipsum esse—essence itself. No, a prior substance stands before me in the form of the game, with rules and procedures; and another God challenges me. I am a lesser God, an Emperor God; and I exist only through the conflict, and cease to be when it is resolved: I am a God of War who ceases to be when peace comes. I am a God who seeks his own destruction! Objet petit a—the constitutive exception, that which is only insofar as it is not: The Death Drive as Divine Impulse.

I, therefore, was a lesser God who existed only within the restraints of the board, only a function, not the fabricator.

In any case, my father taught me the basics and proceeded to play with me once in a while. I lost perpetually. He would attempt to teach me tactics, the elements of space, time, pawn structure, material, king safety, but I insisted: I am a god, and if my Kingdom dies, then it is my Will. Amen, Amen, Amen! Deus Dixit!

Today, I continue to lose. I have tried reading books about and once even downloaded a program, Chessmaster, which taught you how to play. It was a very sophisticated piece of technology, but I still failed to learn. My friend, S., loves chess, and has been spending a lot of time mastering his openings. My friends and I used to laugh at him for not being very intelligent, for failing his thesis, for saying stupid things—but he continues to beat me at chess, and he tells me: “You are making awful moves. Please, just study openings for a while. I am more organized in everything, you know, just because I studied openings.”

I move my knight, which he captures immediately.

O, felix culpa! My will be done.

On the Things I Do When I Do Not Write

In Personal Derelictions on April 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

1. In college you hear about crazy people all the time, tho in my time there, I was never able to meet many of them because I was busy reading; and I mean that very literally: For all my four years in college, I spent it reading, but everyone was out doing the proper thing and having fun, because while I can tell you, for example, that Cato said “Delenda Carthago Est,” which means, “Carthage must be destroyed,” (and Rome did indeed destroy Carthage, thus the taunt: “I am Rome, you are Carthage / Burned you down to a pile of garbage.” I used that numerous times and people thought it was the lamest thing ever) I have never vomited in a bush beside a bar or committed sexual indiscretions which, a few years later, I could express remorse about during a conversation with an old friend, as in: “We found ourselves in my bed, and I placed my hand beneath her, and I regret it! Oh, how I regret it! I tossed her on my bed and I regret it!” My friend actually told that to me, and I said: “You tossed her on the bed?” and he said, “Yes, I did it. I didn’t know how to court women properly then.” He preferred not to reveal any more.

In any case, I have none of that, apart from a few, which are of course accidental occurrences, rather than the result of a lifestyle that causes these things to happen; and this late in my life I think it would have been worth it, at least once in a while, to resign myself to biological powers greater than my own, the calling of nature, as it were, to be young. I can imagine no greater fear, for myself, than obeying my nature; nothing can be a greater perversion than to accept the animal that you are: Humanity is the name of a struggle, and our institutions are testaments to our denying our animalness, such as marriage, when we obviously simply want to fuck everyone else, or work, when we simply want to allow everything to come to us at the expense of everything else, or law, when we find ourselves wanting to murder (at least mortally wound, with a chance of recovery, if circumstances are just right). Humanity is an overcoming, and Nietzsche’s Overman is, I think, only common man, anything else is animal—and the succinct definition of animal (contrary to Plato’s definition of two-legged animal without features and with flat nails and Aristotle’s as a rational animal) is: Struggles to be itself (perhaps: Humanity is itself the struggle to be).

Now, if I were the epitome of a human I think I’d like to be Nietzsche’s Overman, yet I find myself always accompanied by someone who is conspicuously, almost shamefully, like Kierkegaard’s Knight of Faith.

2. My friend M. and I were very excited to come to my house at about midnight because we just bought a French press. My literary theory professor used one, and he always made you coffee using his little French press whenever you came to talk to him. I’ve never tried his coffee because I’ve always been too embarrassed, but when I visited him recently, I finally obliged, and the coffee was pretty incredible. My mother bought me some French roast coffee, too. It was like the stars were aligned for us, coffee wise. It rarely did that for me in terms of love, or money, or anything else that mattered; but once in a while, my stars align perfectly just so I get myself a perfectly good cup of coffee. Sometimes that’s enough in any case.

We followed the precarious and vague instructions from the Starbucks guy we bought it from: Two spoonfuls of coffee grinds for each person, hot water left for four minutes, press down on the plunger, pour. The guy didn’t know if it was four minutes or five minutes. The thin guy with glasses at the register said four. You know a procedure is delicate when a minute is a point for contention. The guy behind the register looked like he would contest a point like whether Jews are Israelites in a strict sense, or how something is pronounced tho in reality they can be pronounced both ways. M. and I decided to follow the instructions because it was our first time using a French press and we wanted to do it right. We always want to do it right the first time. It gives us a good indication of what we are missing when we inevitably mess up, or what we aren’t missing when we decide it isn’t worth it.

We followed the instructions and we had one cup of coffee. We tasted it. At first, M. said she couldn’t tell if anything was very special about this coffee. She hasn’t tried it brewed using the machine. After a while, however, she pursed her lips after sipping, savoring the coffee in her mouth, and said that she can appreciate the press now. It is indeed good coffee.

It is the pressing down that is the most satisfying part. There is a ritual to it, and to some extent I guess if you imagine the grinds are little drowning people you can pretend you are a wrathful God crushing them to the bottom of a black sea. That is why, to me, it is satisfying: For if I were to be a God, I might as well be the Old Testament God before he got a son and mellowed out in the New Testament.

I cannot tell if it is because the press is new, but I like making my own coffee now and enjoy the ritual. I’ve spoken about rituals before, about how they are practice for dying, and how comforting that is. I made my mother some coffee so she could try it. She mixed cream and sugar to it and she ruined everything the press adds to a cup of coffee.

3. “Love,” she said, “makes the world go ‘round.”

“It’s original angular momentum and you know it,” I said. “Do not make assumptions about the universe. You know how that irritates me.”

4. I find myself these days a very angry person, and usually unable to write because whenever I try to examine the details of human existence, prior to writing them down as is the cosmic duty of anyone who calls themselves a writer (itself a bad habit), I find the flow of my thoughts obstructed by a stubborn hatred; and in this way I consider my writer’s block a kind of creative constipation, primarily because it exhibits a definitely and identifiable blockage, rather than a mere inability to produce; and in fact these long ramblings are the result of an unfiltered overflow that results from such constipation. One has to wonder if this does not ultimately lead to some type of explosion, and if it does, what form will this explosion take? Many times I felt my mind close to bursting, and one has to wonder if these feelings are illusions or actual indications.

As to what I am actually angry about, I cannot say much: Suffice it to say that whenever I am met with failure, I prefer it to be my own. No person must ever have to carry the weight of another person’s failure. It is the height of both shame and uselessness to have this happen, and propriety is never much about ensuring one’s success as it is about containing one’s failure. “Excuse me” and “Thank you” are acknowledgement of our own micro-failures, our faults that have us rely on other people; and to burden one’s failure on another is a truly horrible and inexcusable thing, and it is the very thing against which we have built the entirety of manners, of propriety, ultimately, of human dignity—that is to say, the inability or unwillingness to commit to one’s failures is a most undignified thing. This is what I am angry about.

Of course we are not allowed to say, at the same time, that we are burdened by the failures of others, because it is our own failure that, say, we have led people into our lives who are failures, or have failed to realize soon enough that they are failures, and in this aspect I suppose I must learn to move on, and may be the very cause of my blockage, of my anger. It is not so much the failure that was forced upon me as it is my failure with regard to the failure of another, and it is such a complicated mess that there is no use cleaning it up. The worms of time will eat it up by itself, as will it with our corpses, soon enough; but I suppose the idea is for this mess to be eaten up first, way before they catch up to me.


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