Ain’t No Jazz In Writing

He had nothing of the clerk in him and all writers need something of the pettiness of the clerk, the diligence of the proofreader.

How do I begin this? As always I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have, for the first time in my life, been so affected by a piece of writing that it has started a fire in me. It starts with a claim by Geoff Dyer. He stated something that attempted to counter everything I have hoped for in writing, to discredit writing in such absolute terms as to make it obsolete. There is irony in this as, in the very same creation that holds this assertion, he has in a way disproven that exact claim. That claim is that somehow Jazz is greater than any other form of expression and that writing will forever be a petty endeavor, the product of contrived minds.

Geoff had come to my weekly seminar to discuss his book, But Beautiful, and field the usual questions, all polite and quotidian inquiries into the purpose and process of that seminal Jazz book. For the hour and a half before he joined us I had listened as the conversation revolved around the particular strengths of certain passages, the manner in which they had strengthened his supposed argument, and how evocative his writing style was. We were all enchanted by his writing; in how his fictive tale of the Jazz greats had managed to reach beyond the normal scope of criticism to capture the spirit of what the music was. People were happy.

But, despite the explicit purpose of the class being the analysis of the varying forms of criticism, I found myself stuck on one passage in particular that had little to do with what we were supposed to be examining. In the afterwards, almost an afterthought in fact, Geoff threw writing under the bus and stated that the only genius achievable was in Jazz. It was here that he made the aforementioned claim that writing is hindered by the necessity to edit and review, thus robbing it of any actual worth as a means to express the actual reality of being human.

I managed to build up the courage, in the awkward silence after a question had been satisfied, to ask him to elaborate on that passage. In his book he had used Mingus as an example, harping on how this beautifully belligerent man, whose music belted out of his every pore, was unable to transfer his genius to paper, arguing that the sole reason was because writing lacked the ability to capture that same purity of being as Jazz. To put it bluntly, this one example, this one passage, pissed me off. Pissed me off enough to make me underline the offending lines and scrawl “fuck you” beside it, as childish as that may sound.

And the response I got from Geoff when I asked him about that passage didn’t quite change my sentiment. Even his physical reaction to my question left me wanting. I vaguely remember, as I struggled to formulate my question from my trembling words, his sly, almost arrogant grin as he realized what I was touching on. It seemed to me that this was something that had been asked before and that he didn’t quite know how to defend it, and the answer I got about how Jazz’s penchant for improvisation gave it the truthful quality that no other art form could reach sounded practiced, canned, without soul. Very quickly the subject then morphed into something else, not even a specter of what I had initially asked about.

Perhaps he had a genuine point in stating that Jazz’s improvisation was what lent it the touch of humanity that no other art could hope for. But to my ears that argument was as superficial as my internal counterargument that, like the writer’s process of revision, so did individual Jazz songs go through varying forms, moving from initial formulation to the “improvisation” of the varying band members. To me there was hardly any difference between the creative process of writing and Jazz. Nor did I believe that the soul that poured into Jazz was somehow more powerful, more honest, more immediate, than what a writer poured into their work.

Geoff’s belief that writing was incapable of capturing the honesty of the human spirit, that in effect it had been dead on arrival, led me back to his claim that Jazz was also now dead. I would argue that the issue here isn’t that Jazz, and writing, are dead, but rather that people have stopped believing that they can be reincarnated. Hell, it was even stated during the seminar that somewhere along the lines, as an individual becomes smothered in recognition and leveled by age, the pioneering spirit becomes weary and cautious, and therefore what new horizons lie ahead are masked by the clouds of complacency and comfort. This was part of what made me so mad. For so long I had been searching for a means to use my writing to capture what was actually fermenting within me, to find a way to push writing beyond the point at which it stood and take it to new forms of expression, and to not only be told that writing was dead, but to be told that writing was never alive to begin with, incensed me.

I suppose I also found myself aflame because I suddenly knew how to verbalize what I had been feeling and wanting for so long. Through Geoff’s abject denouncement of the purity of writing via the lens of Jazz, I realized that I had the means to speak about what was burning within me. For the past few years I had been telling people that I wanted to capture movement through writing, an incredibly vague and meek attempt at describing what I felt writing could accomplish. And when I provided samples of attempts at this, at pure expressions of being, my supposed compatriots would simply give me horrified deer-in-the-headlights look. I felt demoralized, as if I was somehow not correctly aligned with the world and that what I was feeling was some form of dementia that I would have to learn to subdue. Even after arriving in New York City and beginning graduate classes the feeling lingered.

As I examined Geoff’s book, though, I realized that what I was feeling was mirrored beautifully, almost perfectly, in the stories of the Jazz players he brought to life. It didn’t make sense to me at first, at how I was apparently drawing a parallel between what these musicians experienced and what I yearned for, and then it hit me. But Beautiful isn’t at all about Jazz or the Black American experience, it’s about passion. It’s about the raw passion that drove all of those great Jazzmen to pick up their instruments and quite literally blow the wind out of their own sails. It’s about the nascent passion that burst forth in Geoff himself as he discovered their ecstasy and set him about writing his opus on Jazz. It was about the passion that kept me up until four in the morning mulling over a text because the author had tried telling me that writing couldn’t ever have any Jazz in it.

So this is where I end. I have been set afire by writing that has both paradoxically denounced itself and yet has helped breath new life into the essence of what it assumed was only true to Jazz. I truly hope this great irony is not lost on Geoff.

Music as a representation of America. Or a deconstruction of America. Or a rebellion. Never mind I don’t know.

I was recently asked to find a particular song that captured the zeitgeist of American culture, and in preparing I found myself desperately scouring my mind for a suitable song to write about. While there were a couple groups that I found personally exciting I was concerned with the notion that, despite their music potentially having deeper implications for me personally, they said little about the country as a whole. What I did identify in both of them was a deep seeded desire within myself for a release from enculturation and the normative. So I went along with it and wrote about Crystal Castles and The Residents.

Crystal Castles, by far the most commercially viable of the two, has managed to find a comfortable intersection between dark, ambient noise, the sharp and grainy sounds of 8-bit, with the uptempo beats and melodic flowing of more pop style electronic genres. Its final touch is Alice Glass, an almost childlike and ghostly figure, whose vocals vacillate between primal screaming and brooding yet sonorous dirges. The resulting music is what I have come to view as a somber celebration of a desire for escapism. Crystal Castles’ music invites its listeners to strip themselves of notions of suburban propriety, that subversive social order that masquerades as egalitarianism and open-mindedness yet manages to lock its youth into a system of regimented life. Suburbia does so not by force feeding ideologies but by emphasizing self-serving mores and by slyly frowning upon other opposed values. In essence it is faux-freedom, and Crystal Castles invokes escapism from it through its call to primitive movement. It’s not a call to arms, nor a call to action, just a call to movement.

Unlike many genres of music that are reactionary to the societal system, punk as an example, Crystal Castles has a far more subtle form of rebellion. In fact I would say that it is not the conscious aim of the artists. Rather than a total rejection of the system it takes ownership of the culture from which it is born. By using musical devices that prove reminiscent of the old days, of the days of my generation’s youth, by use of the 8-bit music for example, they are encouraging not an absolute division from society but rather a rebellion through ownership. This is a patently different form of rejection of the norm.

This rejection is most evident when you are present for a live performance. Glass is a truly mesmerizing artist to watch perform. She routinely steps out onto the crowd, screaming her lines with an honest abandon while writhing and pulsating her body. As she careens across the crowd you begin to feel a sense of holy communion. Through her physicality and presentation you experience a break with the enculturation of society, all of it emblematic of the liberated being.

The Residents came to life sometime around the mid-seventies. Very much like punk’s “buck the system” attitude of unpolished sounds and short, brutish songs, The Residents produced music that took America’s commercialization to its extreme. What you had were bizarre, vaudevillesque tunes that promised neither rationality or normalcy as traditionally prescribed by the industry or society. To an extent there were narratives within each song, but the narratives were not in anyway directly recognizable to the comfortably cultured or classed. The Residents were, and still are, a celebration of the absurd.

Like Crystal Castles, the true essence of The Residents is experienced while at live performances. This is where the world is turned upside down and you are presented with an incredibly bizarre yet exhilarating experience. Set against garish props that look like they’ve been plucked off the suburban world’s lawns or dollar store shelves, The Residents perform anonymously in the most brazen and irreverent manner possible. Their performances lie somewhere between concert, theater, and deranged preacher, creating a sort of suburban Bermuda’s Triangle that entraps you with a sense of childish giddiness at seeing all that was held proper being thrown back in your face, without apology.

I suppose that the main attraction of both The Residents and Crystal Castles is what I perceive as an almost subconscious recognition that the societal norm is a prison. The latent message could be the break from enculturation, to release oneself from the demands of proper sociable behavior, and to move about the world freely and without preoccupation. This preoccupation is something that became readily evident to me as I struggled with social anxiety, a state of mind that took everyday concerns to gargantuan levels of immediacy. In such a state the most insignificant daily customs and behaviors that we entertain are suddenly thrust to the forefront of our minds in a horribly debilitating manner. In a tale tailor-made for a horror story, I found myself divested of the natural ability to be human, unwillingly forced to break down its essence into individual components and consider them independently, attempting to understand what was the most normative expression and how to capture it successfully.

This subtle control over our beings is, I believe, the modern world’s dominance over our mental and physical sovereignty. In a way social anxiety, and depression, can be viewed as the only normal response to a patently irrational and arbitrary system. True, as human beings we have certain characteristics that are derived apart from the constructs of humanity and civilization. Simple things like movement and social interactions are largely habituated responses that have come about over time, becoming reinforced through our continued social interactions. To that extent we can assume them to be normative. But many other aspects of our lives are governed not by what might be considered normal, from an evolutionary standpoint, but what we as a group have come to term “normal” within the guidelines of civilization. And while one might not immediately be punished by society for moving from the norm, it has become so ingrained in who we are as individuals that we end up battering ourselves mercilessly for any infraction. In an unfortunate turn of events the system has turned us into our own worst enemy. We are in effect keeping ourselves in line.

So I suppose both bands have become representative of my desire to break away from the America that I know: subtly regimented, psychically stifling, impossibly proper. Through their music I am able to explore a more free side of myself, even if only vicariously, as if I have been too conditioned, I imagine, to allow myself the freedom to explore the world on my own terms. I also imagine that my attraction to the absurd has less to do with it somehow being more “true” to the nature of the world, but more of an extreme reaction in the face of such a standardized world. I guess that in some odd way I see both Crystal Castles and The Residents as a celebration of the deconstruction of the American way of life.

Look Ma, I’m writing!

I came to write fiction. First I wrote nothing. Now I write journal. Andres no write fiction no more.

Somehow the laziness that had initially kept me from writing is now giving me a heavy “nonfiction” bent. Actually this isn’t all that illogical. Fiction requires a lot of a writer. In order to write it you must contend with a creative mind constantly being drained, yet hardly ever being replenished. You’ve also got to deal with the paralyzing fear that what you’re creating is absolute shit, or even worse, not creative. Then there are the fiction purists who demand you adhere to certain guidelines for plot and character and all that other shit I can’t name since I got a degree in psychology. It turns out that the “creative” in “creative writing” is referring to fanciful stories, not the exploration of syntax and grammar and all that other shit I can’t name since, again, I got a degree in psychology. I suppose I’m not particularly well suited to comment on these matters considering my lack of traditional training (“these” because I don’t know the proper term, or terms, fucking psych). In fact I always detested English classes, all the way back to high school. In those early years it was because I hated learning about the technical aspects of language. In college it was because I didn’t want to write all those assignments. Now it’s because I’m an adult, damn it.

Somehow, somewhere, I managed to develop a decent grasp of the written language, “the” being English, not “our” because I’ve been taught that assuming your audience is incorrect, although I think that comes from my psych research methods classes, however my English classes did teach me that a sentence like this one isn’t proper syntactically and ought (not aught, I’m such a dilettante (thank you GRE flash cards for that D word)) to be broken into further sentences but I want to get back to my initial point which I already forgot what it was supposed to be. So if I don’t know jack about proper punctuation; or grammer, or syntax. or whatever else is out there (see what I did there? Eh? Eh?) then what right do I have to challenge the norm in that regard? Hell I was confusing “its” and “it’s” until recently when my uncle told me to “get my fucking its in line for fuck’s sake!” Nor am I particularly inclined to put much forethought into what I am writing, which I assume is an important part of experimental work.

What I like about writing isn’t so much the product as it is the process. Everyone wants to create work that will be idolized by the masses. They want the world to recognize their genius or their incredible abilities as authors and they therefore strive to manufacture something “amazing”. In this way these writers become fixated on the final product to the detriment of the process, or to be cliche, they forget or fail to realize that joy and discovery are in the journey, not the destination.

I write as a means of exploration and play; exploration of myself, my world, and the manner in which I interact with the world. I prefer to keep my writing fluid, without conscious drive if you will, as I find that what comes out to be far more interesting than anything I could purposefully create. I am after all a creature molded and guided by the unseen cultural dictates that constitute my psychology, and those dictates make for very contrived and uninteresting work. This is what happens when people set out to write “a believable character” for example. They try to think of what makes a certain person disagreeable, or smart, or flawed, and then use the stereotypes they’ve been taught to try and capture those personages. But we’re human not because of our traits, we’re human because of the manner in which these traits interact with and affect others and our environments. In other words, process over product (the analogy needs a little bit of logical leaping, but think about it).

I also find that the unwitting personal notes left behind in writing are far more true to form, and intriguing, than what is actually in the work. Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, every letter, word, intonation, punctuation, formatting choice, all of it, is an extension of its creator. It’s a subtle clue into the mental workings of another human being, someone just as mundane or inspired or dumb or smart as yourself, someone who has the same desire to express him or herself and to try to make sense of this crazy world. It’s a way to get behind the civilized persona we all assume as we leave our homes and to see the raw, true essence of being. Sometimes I think that the only way to get the unadulterated truth is to read behind the lines.

Ultimately my hope is that in writing free form crap I will see something new, something enlightening.

Late night writing

‘Cause I ain’t know what else to do. My life in a not-so-nutshell: stay up ridiculously late, wake up never, lay around in bed, then stay up ridiculously late again. Throughout all of this I am busy doing nothing. Life’s hard, no? And here I am thinking I’m a writer or something. Oh no wait, I’m a graduate student enlightening myself through diligent writing and voracious reading. Yeah, that’s totally the truth. But if appearances alone determine the truth then nobody will be the wiser, excepting my self-esteem.

You see, I’m currently living through what is supposed to be the creative, personal, and professional renaissance of my life. I’m in New York City, that glimmering jewel of the global arts community, where we all come to seek inspiration and camaraderie and sex. It’s all supposed to be here, sitting on every curb and waiting for you to fall into its arms. What more could I ask for?! No work involved! Just get my ass up and move around a little, maybe do a twerk for some undeserved attention, smoke a cigarette or two as well, and then drink a respectable amount. And you know what? It’s kind of happening that way. Without even trying I’ve found myself developing professional and creative connections. Without even thinking I’m now suddenly surrounded by pretty smart people, all of them equally as eager to develop their writing. I’ve even been able to make inroads into the publishing world just by being a noisy little shit. People know who I am and seem to be alright with me. Fuck yeah!

But the kicker is that I’m still finding a way to squander all of this newfound good fortune. Somehow I find ways to lie around in bed until 4PM and, even after getting out, do nothing but twiddle my thumbs. Hell, I’m not even twiddling my diddle. You know a man’s hit some obscure level of inertia when he isn’t even playing with his junk. Can I argue that it takes an incredible amount of conviction to lie in bed until 4PM? And to not play with your junk? I like thinking of myself in grandiose terms. As you can see it’s not like I’m sad or anything. I’m actually quite happy to be here, even if things aren’t perfect. Then again perfection is a never ending journey that can surely only breed disillusionment. Or is that a good thing? I’ve found that I’m most productive when I’m bored. As they say, boredom is the mother of invention. Or wait was it something else? Who fucking cares.

What I want above all else is to create something of intellectual worth. I want to be the next Camus, or Kafka, or maybe even Foster Wallace. None of whom I’ve actually read. Maybe a bit of Camus. Starting this program I was initially quite intimidated by how well-read all of my peers were. It was like sitting with my friends back home as they talked sports.

“Jordan is the best.”
“No Kobe is.”
“Shut the fuck up Tyson epitomizes the true athlete.”
“What about Roy Jones? He had class, style.”
“Yeah but he didn’t capture the spirit of his time like Maradona did.”
“Well now we have Messi, and he isn’t even jacked on coke!”

So I’ve spent the last six weeks or so listening to my writing buddies and biddies blabber on about the genius of so and so writer, and how their writing is like this famous person’s, or how they aspire to be like this other famous person. Quite a few of these blabbering writers are actually quite good, too. I read their work and think to myself, “Wow, I’m a simpleton.” Nobody wants to think this of themselves, you know? It was quite frightening at first. Here I was thinking that my writing would revolutionize the world and instead I’m realizing that I’m not all that bright. My dad told me so.

But like the changing seasons, so our lives do go. A continual cycle of birth and life and change and death, interspersed with a healthy amount of masturbation if you can’t find someone to get you off. But unlike that horrible metaphor my life is slowly mutating into what I want it to be. First I dispense with the idea that I’m a genius. In spring did he first spray pesticides. Then I begin to wander around and act like the irreverent bastard I’ve always wanted to be. In summer did he prance about the sunny fields and kick bunnies. As I discover the gremlin within I more readily embrace its colors. In the fall did he wipe his ass with the falling auburn, and orange, and yellow leaves, claiming it all as his own. It all comes full circle when I become inured to the machinations of this crazy world. In the winter did he point and laugh at the freezing bum.

God I’m a fucking strange.

New York, New York.

How long has it been? Is anyone counting? No, not even I. But I figure it is about time. At the present moment I have nothing in particular to say, so I suppose you might stop reading right now. But forward movement, regardless of its direction, has a wonderful way of bringing up new areas of intrigue. That is why I write the way I do. I never, rather rarely, have a particular vision when beginning to write. Usually I just visualize something and then follow the currents of my mind. How much of that current is nature or nurture is unknowable, but I don’t really care. In any case, my point is that, if you’re still reading, you might still get something out of this post. No promises though.

I’ll continue with a topic that has been bothering me since I began school here. Before I go any further I’d like to preface this by saying that I do not have any illusions that I am some sort of genius or visionary writer. At least I remind myself of that regularly, which I suppose does not bode well for my public image (admitting this, I mean. Nor is this self-perception consistent. I am after all a man raked by the residual effects of anxiety). To get back to the topic, now that the preface, and the beginnings of a segue, are taken care of, I am slightly disillusioned by how conventional my program is proving to be. Granted, I’m only a month and half into my first semester. However I was hoping to have my world brought to its knees, to have my peers and professors rip my writing apart and say, “Good, but make me hard (or wet). Don’t just give me the same old, same old. Spell it out backwards and upside down and tell me all the things I don’t want to hear but have to if I’m to die with some level of humanity.” Okay I got a bit carried away with that, but maybe you get the gist?

What I’m getting is a lot of talk about character development, and story arc, and proper plot structure, and this is what the reader will want and this is how you make them cum. Of course there is value in learning the established particulars of the craft. I, just like everyone else, or most everyone else, want to make money and live a comfortable life. And there is no money in force-feeding people their own vomit. In fact, and going back to the value of conventional penmanship, I have learned a great deal in the short time that I have been here. Indeed I have learned an inordinate amount. I love my peers and my professors! Platonically of course, although maybe desirously for some. I must say that I truly appreciate the people I have met, the connections I am making, and all that I am learning. This is the absolute truth. Especially considering that I am far from being a master at my craft. But I am still fucking disillusioned!

Perhaps it’s me. I have this odd desire, or this odd idea rather, that writing can reach beyond traditional forms of expression and do something else. I like to tell people that I want to “capture movement through writing”, which is the truth. What does it mean? Hell I couldn’t give you a straight answer. But that is exactly why I want to push the boundaries! How many of us feel something when we read or write, when we play with language? Most everyone. However I see there being two broad types of literary folk: the editors and then the writers. The editors are the conventional types, the ones who write well and can produce good work according to the established doctrines. They don’t so much feel as they do think. Valuable people, no doubt, but utterly boring. Then you have the writers, and I tend to include myself in this group (sorry for my presumptuousness). The writers are the edge of your seat creators, the ones who spew out words that magically make comprehensible sentences and paragraphs and have personal meaning unconsciously littered throughout. They have some level of mastery of their written language, derived not from focused study but rather from a simple, innate drive to express themselves. These are the individuals who tend to push the limits and open up the arena to new challenges.

I can’t tell if people in my program are content with the status quo, afraid, or just oblivious. To a certain extent it is the university’s responsibility to engender the feeling that options exist, and what path you choose, or combination, does not reflect on your worth as a writer. Still, it is important for the university to force its students out of their little boxes and make them face the light, meaning that the university must enlighten its students to the massive, formless world that exists beyond their flimsy literary training and within which they can create their own prison. Why assume another’s? I do have to admit that the mere fact that I am writing and publishing this is due largely to the influence of one of my professors, evidence that the university is serving its purpose, to a certain degree. However I still feel like the university is failing in some way.

The question now is who is going to start a “movement”. Any takers? I know I won’t. I’m too afraid. I’m unfortunately of the “let me sit here and wait for someone else to open the flood gates so I can ride along” mindset. So I think what I’ve been getting at here is that I want someone to challenge the establishment and embrace the absurd and the irrational, because that is what I want but I’m too much of a pussy to do it myself. Enculturation is a bitch.

Let me end with this remark: fuck what the reader thinks they want! They should take what we give them and if they don’t want to deal with it then they can shoot us or they can shoot themselves. Either way, good riddance.

Mice on Men

There were two mice sitting upright, discussing the matter of their existence. Fully realizing that their existence among those of humans seemed woefully unimportant, they had set about finding an answer. They had scavenged a bit of cheese from the kitchen counter, found some grapes, and prepared a small feast for their intellectual adventure. The first mouse, of a grey coat, was named Luis. The brown mouse called himself Clark. It was just before dawn when all humanity appeared to be dormant, and so they began. Clark, breaking first wind, ventured a timid question.

“What importance does our existence have in this home?” he asked.

“Well I could give quite a few practical answers to that,” responded Luis, “But that would be counter the metaphysical nature of our question.”

“That might be true at first glance, but who is to say that practical questions have no bearing on the metaphysical?” Clark pondered. “In fact, is there even a difference in importance between the two?”

Luis thought for a moment, scratching his minuscule head. These questions were beginning to confuse him. “Let us define practical versus metaphysical then. Perhaps that will make our argumentation more directed.”

“Very well,” said Clark. “Let us first define Practicality. I propose we define the practical as being that which is of importance from a material sense. Or in other words, that which holds absolute, truthful bearing only in the fictitious, artificial world of humans.”

“So you are saying that which is practical has little bearing on the workings of the universe?” Luis asked quizzically.

“Yes, Practicality is apart from Reality.” He stopped realizing he had to define another concept. Luis gave him a tired look but welcomed the challenge.

“We must put Practicality on hold so that you might define this Reality of yours.” Luis said. “What is it, then?”

Clark paused for a moment, and gathering his thoughts: “Reality is the physical existence of that which is present. It is where it is apart from the conjectures, perceptions, values, and morals of those who experience it. That which is Reality requires no external validation, it simply exists by its own merit of being present.”

“But is it present if no one is there to experience its presence?” retorted Luis.

“That is another question, shall we set it aside for now and focus on arriving at our original question?” snarled Clark.

“Very well, very well. I was simply interjecting a thought I had.”

“We will come back to it at a later point. Let us continue.” responded Clark.

“So then Clark, Reality is the state of being, the state of physical presence. This is assuming that all that exists has a physical property. What about light, something far less tangible than other forms of matter.” Luis carried on.

Clark was stumped; he realized there was a serious shortcoming in his conception of Reality. “Then perhaps we cannot define Reality as physical being. Besides, that is not true to what my conception is.” Clark stopped momentarily considering the last bit of his comment. But he brushed it aside for the time being and continued, “So let me define Reality thus: Reality is the essential nature of existing. It is physical not necessarily in the sense of tangible matter, but physical in its state of being present.”

Luis nodded in consent, “That sounds reasonable, but only to an extent. I once again arrive at the question of how something exists if something or someone is not present to acknowledge its existence. It seems to me that the question of the existence of your Reality relies utterly in the existence of another to affirm it.”

“But we stray,” said Clark, sighing deeply. “What is important is that we have defined Reality.”

“Oh how I despise the nature of philosophy.” agreed Luis “So now that we have defined Reality, let us return to Practicality. What were you referring to?”

“The defining of Practicality seems irrelevant now, considering Reality. In stating that I could think of a few practical reasons for our existence among humans, I was referring to the effects our actions have on their lives, for better or worse.” stated Clark.

“Aahh, but this is relevant! For the practical impact that we might have affects the World in which they live.” opined Luis.

“World? And what is that?”

“World is my counterpart to your Reality I suppose, Clark. World consists of the subjective, sometimes communal, constructs that are the basis of human Life.”

“Life! Another term we must describe.” Clark said bemoaning the process of philosophical discourse.

“Well, my initial thoughts are that Life is wedded to World. It is fictitious, artificial. Their opposites are Existence and Reality, respectively. Life and Existence refer to living organisms, although Life is far more philosophical and therefore requires greater sentience of its host.” explained Luis.

“So returning to Life, what is that?” asked Clark quizzically.

“Life is the subjective state of being. Whether that subjectivity is communal or personal makes little difference. An example: a person’s Life is defined by the values that person assigns to their actions, goals, and general outlook. These can all be derived from communal standards, of course. There is also the Life created by the communal, which consists of standardized values and objectives deemed customary of a personal Life.”

“Hmm…” thought Clark “So Life is the fantasy of Existence, the ordering and familiarizing of an otherwise incomprehensible and sometimes alien experience?”

“Quite so,” responded Luis “Despite the immediate truth of Life to the personal and the communal, it bears little truth to the actuality of Existence.”

“And what of this Existence?” asked Clark.

“Existence refers our physical presence, our state of being. In essence, Existence is different to Reality only in the fact that it applies directly to human being.”

“Does not Existence apply to other life forms as well, then? For if, as you say, Existence is physical presence, how can one limit it to one form of physical presence?” remarked Clark.

“True, very true,” responded Luis, “So Existence is simply Being, the mere nature of being present within time and space. It was foolish of me to claim that only in human being was Existence paired.”

“Very well then,” interjected Clark “we have now defined Reality, Existence, Life, and Practicality.”

“Wait!” chimed in Luis hurriedly “You lie, we have not defined Practicality yet!”

“Don’t yell at me you twit!” yelled back Clark “And besides we have already touched on it.”

“Watch that nose of yours, don’t hold it too high” squealed Luis “I do not think we have adequately defined Practicality. Let us work on it some more.”

Clark grumbled and glared but nodded in consent.

“Practicality, then,” continued Luis, “has to do with the material, emotional impact something has on the state of a human’s being. I do not consider it particularly important at this moment.”

“And what of the Metaphysical?” pondered Clark. “I suppose we have only to look at contemporary definitions of it to arrive at an agreement. I would consider it to be the philosophical questioning that we are engaging in.”

“Why of course. So now that we have the definitions sorted out, where do we go from here?” asked Luis.

Clark thought for a moment. “Wait! Our discussion on what merit our existence has among men was the initial question! We have strayed!”

“Well that sounds sensible to me, my dear Clark, for men are innately arrogant creatures. For they see no other worthy being than themselves. So I propose that our natural digression be all but appropriate.”

“Aye, they are so arrogant!” responded Clark. “But perhaps through them we might learn a greater truth about this realm we live in. They fill their lives so fervently with action and material, and to what end?”

“I believe they do so to mask the truth of their Existence, my friend.” responded Luis, taking a bit of cheese and nibbling it delightedly.

“So do you believe that all humans, at their core, are lost and lonely beings?” asked Clark.

“Yes, I dare say so. And even if they wholeheartedly believe that their Lives are full of purpose and passion, in truth that very purpose and passion is merely a construct, a truth only within the context of the World they have constructed.”

“So do you say they do so consciously?” Clark asked in a puzzled manner.

“Nay, I believe their Lives are reactions to the gradual movement of humanity, movement that at its core is a subconscious search for meaning.”

“Ah! They sound like marionettes to the great comedic play of civilization!” squealed Clark.

“It does appear so.” said Luis.

“But let me ask you this, Clark, how do we know, with any veracity, that what they construct is in all actuality without merit in the universe? Indeed, it would be presumptuous of us to say that we know the universe does not hold their ambitions as truth! For we are after all only mice.”

“And they but men!” retorted Luis, with a smirk.

Then Clark squealed with excitement. “Wait! my dear friend. For now we may return to Practicality. For perhaps their Life plays have a practical impact on the universe, an inkling of cosmic importance.”

“How say you?” asked Luis in obvious confusion.

“Well, we defined as Practicality as being truthful and material impact within the construct of their Lives. But perhaps it is also truth in the context of the universe. Perhaps, just perhaps, their actions do have some import in the revolving cogs of expansion and recession of the universe.”

“But you have confused me, Clark!”

“Perhaps their practicality is as important to the continued existence and being of the universe. Perhaps their Practicality has impact, perhaps it is impactful to its continued being!” Clark responded, still with excitement.

“So,” spoke Luis, “Their Practicality, or in other words their actions, their beliefs and their musings, are as intrinsic to the universe as are the particles that compose it?”

“Exactly! And if so, and as I said just now, then perhaps their desire for Life is as important to the continued Existence of the universe and Reality. Perhaps not all is necessarily trivial!”

“Well, that is a tenuous statement, Clark. But interesting nonetheless.”

“Quite so, I must admit,” agreed Clark. “It is difficult not to see all that composes Reality as merely being a product of chance, of circumstance.”

“And all that what humans desire are just the meager attempts to supersede this trivial nature,” continued Luis.

“So where do we stand, then? That all Life and World is without merit?”

“I shall say ‘Yes’, at least for the time being,” answered Luis.

“And so shall I. Let us then return to our feast and speak no longer of these matters,” said Clark.

“A splendid idea! Let us be merry and not consider. Let us be human, all too human!”

I shouldn’t be posting this because I am incapable of intelligent conversation

I’m at a bar in Atlanta. To anyone who lives here little else needs to be said, as most bars are identical no matter the location and who frequents them. But the circumstances surrounding a visit are always different and that ultimately vindicates visiting them on a regular basis. As for myself I am splayed across a booth saving the table for my friends. They are off in the mess of people jostling to order drinks, hoping for the best. One of my friends, Andrew, has graciously offered to buy my beer in return for saving the table. I of course offer to return the favor but opt to buy chicken fingers instead. I’ll return the favor one day, but not soon.

This place is my usual tromping grounds, a place where I come to seek the comforts of a woman’s touch (always unsuccessful) and to while away my weekends in a drunken fog (always successful). The only reason I return is because my good friend has a home here, making it easy to get to the bars without the risk of going to jail. Assuming, of course, I don’t pull one of my usual stunts and start some form of confrontation.

I have a couple stories that I could tell, none too outlandish but worth telling none the less. I am one of those totally confused individuals, at least socially, who for a time thought that acting against propriety was profound. Perhaps there is some form of deep, social criticism in behaving in ways that go against the norm, but when the norm involves plaid and polo wearing dudes accompanied by girls wearing those onesie dresses, there isn’t much profundity available. Despite the homogeneity of my immediate surroundings there is a much more varied world around me. But this generation of ours is so varied that all “unique” inspiration is immediately absorbed into the culture of personal branding. So no matter what you do it’s all old news.

With that in mind it becomes apparent how difficult it is to really define who you are, if you are about defining yourself independently of the rest of society. I say this in light of the great minds of the counter cultural movement, those who lived during the grand decades of the 60’s and 70’s and helped define who we are today. They were the pathfinders, the trailblazers, the conquistadors of the absurd and the unknown. But they set us up for who we are today. I see our generation as being what the 50’s were to the Beats; stiff, complacent, and uninspired. That is a harsh view and admittedly unwarranted considering the creative minds behind social media and the silicon revolution. But if you think of it the vast majority of us are cruising on the achievements of a grand few. We are simply taking advantage of their innovations and trying to make them our own through our own meager and domestic endeavors.

But I wonder if each cultural phase is not defined by the masses but rather by the individuals, the ones who choose to challenge all that we hold as truth, as unquestionable. If that is the case, what does it say about us, the many living day to day on the customs established by the innovators from before? Are we just automatons grinding away with our petty ideals of independence? Are we just slaves to the establishment?

On writing personal journals and some other only slightly elucidated existential questions revolving around the subject of writing

Every writer seems to say the same thing: just write. They say, “don’t worry about the final product, just get your words down and move on from there. In that manner you become accustomed to writing regularly and you also develop your technique.” I have trouble doing this because of my need to give purpose to everything, because of my desire to have a perfect product without any of the rigors of the through journey. I am setting those concerns aside right now to not only improve my writing, but also to lift my boredom. This boredom of mine is destroying me, making me feel the full impact of my existential musings because I just can’t think of something worthwhile to do. But I intend to avoid the self-pitying so common of myself in my depressed and anxious state. I have become disillusioned by the realization that I am not at all unique in my “suffering”. I am just one more distraught soul feeling I have the entirety of the inspired spirit within me.

Anyway, to return to writing about matters other than depression, I will consider the merits of writing diary-like, stream of consciousness entries. It seems just as shallow to me, and as pointless, as posting infinitesimally edited clips of yourself talking about some subject on YouTube. I find the individuals who do that lacking in any true talents as their words are spliced together opportunistically to present the viewer with the desired image of themselves and for achieving the desired effect. But I suppose writing is no different. This is an entirely random thought, though.

Back to the question of writing to oneself. What benefit does it confer? To answer that question it is necessary to determine what the desired outcome is. Writing, especially through blogging and other published mediums, is done for the “others”. It is written to be presented and validated by “externals”, thus providing the writer with a sense of self-worth which may or may not be substantiated or valid. In that sense it has a very explicit purpose, one of integrating the writer with the world at large and fueling her or his ego.

But what happens when a writer writes on his or her own on a medium that only he or she has access to? What purpose does the writing serve, then? It almost feels like you are writing redundancies, speaking out loud your own thoughts and then trying to swallow them again in some perverted, cannibalistic circle of philosophical “linguism”. Are you writing to yourself to understand yourself? Are you writing to yourself to release yourself? Either way, what good does it do to place words on paper that are only meant for your eyes? You already know everything that is being written! It is not as if you are enlightening yourself, you are just regurgitating your thoughts and then consuming them in an endless, egotistical cycle. Your thoughts go nowhere. But do you go nowhere, as well?

It is with that question that I return to the initial writers statement of “just write”. I suppose there is the possibility of chancing upon a moment of clarity or inspiration that appears to come from somewhere else, even though the words are written by your hand. Then it is for those moments that one ought to write to themselves, for in the endless stream of spat out crud there might appear a small jewel, a surprising combination of words whose origin is not sure but which you can claim as your own. But now I wonder, what good do those “jewels” do you? In what way do they validate you, for lack of a better expression. This is most definitely becoming more and more existential.

Let’s use a hypothetical situation to sort these thoughts out. Let us imagine a being locked away in a barren cube with only a never-ending supply of writing materials. This being begins to write his thoughts, continuously for all eternity. Through his diaries he comes to elucidate on the entirety of his existence within that cube. He understands everything there is to understand, answers all the questions he can possibly ask. Yet at the end of the day, despite all his knowledge and all his writing, he is still just some dude alone in a box for all eternity. What good do all his efforts do? Make him infinitely wiser? To what end? How does that serve him? How does it make him a more valid and substantial being?

I suppose this is the conundrum I face when sitting down to write to myself, ostensibly to lift my boredom. If I write a journal, what the hell kind of good does it do if it doesn’t leave the confines of my perceptions?

This is all assuming, of course, that the only valid human entity is the social human entity. That consideration is inescapable considering how numerous we are and how inclined we are to sociality. So, is the only thing of worth that which affects society? Or can you amass knowledge and inspiration though journal writing and still have some form of existential merit?

Then, of course, there is the question of what the final social outcome is supposed to be. Let us assume that all writing, all action for that matter, ought to be done in the name of furthering humanity, whatever that is supposed to be. Let us say furthering humanity means ensuring the continued comfort and survival of all human beings. So in this sense, any writing should be done to positively or negatively affect humanity by increasing well-being or removing discomfort, respectively. What a noble cause! What a noble effort! But if that is the case, then personal journals are utterly useless as they do not extend themselves to the world at large. So I suppose that the ultimate point of writing is to be read by others, for better or for worse.

Additionally, it seems that no matter which you way you turn, writing, at least in the form I am doing it, is inherently an egotistical matter. This makes me wonder if what I am choosing to do really has any value in a world that is so tightly woven together by disparate yet communicating and interacting parts. Does my writing contribute to the world in any meaningful way?

It appears that my initial question about the merits of writing to oneself has morphed into a question of the merits of opinion pieces on potentially trivial matters. Do such “op eds” have any real world value? Do they have any existential value?

To think that I began this as a means to overcome my boredom and desperation, without any endgoal in sight. It’s incoherent I think, yet slightly engaging. And best of all, my desperation and boredom has been lifted! Now replaced, however, with a smug yet admittedly dubious sense of intellectuality. From one extreme to the other. Which one is valid?

On “realizing dreams”

The world holds approximately seven billion human beings, and each human being holds an unfathomable number of dreams. And just as the world has finite resources and space with which to accommodate these human beings, so does it have a finite number of opportunities for those dreams to be realized. How then do we each face this uncertainty, this looming possibility that our lives will never materialize to what we hope them to be, while others steal our hopes and live out their years in seeming bliss? Are many of us doomed to possible failure, or are we not approaching life, with all its complexities and nuances, in the appropriate manner? Perhaps we are missing the point of life. Perhaps in pursuing a dream, whether attainable or not, we are ignoring the truth that surrounds us, and the beauty that it offers. Or perhaps our lives are simply dreams to begin with.

On “feeling empty”

There is no solution to “feeling empty” as the problem does not exist. “Feeling empty” denotes the absence of some existential state of being or mind. This existential state of being or mind requires a status quo, a baseline. But there is no status quo or baseline as our physical existence is purely circumstantial, without inherent meaning beyond that derived from the random events of evolution. Therefore there is no problem of “feeling empty” as there is no such existential state of “fulfillment” from which to fall into “feeling empty”. So what am I feeling? Is this the curse of consciousness? Of being able to create or imagine states of being that do not or cannot exist? Is it possible to just be? Must one be non sentient to achieve pure being?


For the Intermittent Writer


Short books about albums. Published by Bloomsbury.

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