Tuesday

The Nightmare of Being

 " Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." -1 Corinthians 13:12

"When shit becomes valuable, the poor will be born without assholes." -Henry Miller

This guy I've been talking to asked me tonight if I would be writing. I told him that I would be. He asked me on what--my phone? (My computer broke.) I said that I had taken a fine-point Sharpie from work. He commended me for grifting on the first day of my new office job. This was somewhere between an underhanded insult and a backhanded compliment.


This guy is "the Man" but hates "the Man." He works for one of the most powerful companies in the world, then comes home and reads communist theory. This problem is in the callouses of his hands, produced by constant rubbing of thumb to finger as he works. It is half a foot deep into his back, a mass of knots. He likes decent wine, stuff in the $10-20 category. This is much better than the stuff I have been getting from Rite-Aid for the past few years, a $4 brand called Five Oaks, which I'm drinking now, even though it's basically undrinkable. My taste has become middle-brow, and I am drinking without pleasure out of irritation maybe, or anxiety, or just trying to drink away the literal shittiness of my night.

Shit. Being a mother is all about it. You think it will get better when she potty trains, but then the little retard gets it all over the seat--my drunken retarded antelope, I like to call her on those extra-affectionate days. Tonight was more shitty than usual. First she shit her pants, and then I cleaned the litter box, which I've been avoiding all week. Within the same hour, sewage came overflowing from the toilet adjoined to my room. I called the maintenance man, sobbing in horror, and he told me that this has been happening a lot.

I'm in one of those "bad credit, no credit" complexes, and every single thing has broken that could. The dishwasher fell out of the wall. There's mold under the sinks, covered several times over in bleach and putty. The carpet is that low-pile variety reserved for homes like these, matted by the billions of sippy cup spills that have occurred over the past two years. But this shit, bubbling out of the toilet. It was a new layer of special. All this shit, within a span of one hour--I don't know. The drug store hooch feels both appropriate, and appropriately bad.

 I have not written since I started talking to this guy. I feel good around him--complacent and normal. It's the clean walls and floors, the salads and wine, it's talking to someone, and having him talk back. But the angst is there, sublimated, thicker each day as two awkward intellectuals continue to spend more time together, in the company of drunk retarded antelope who is apparently, according to my psychoanalytic-theory-loving Marxist friend, currently undergoing castration.

There was this one brilliant afternoon when she destroyed the laptop he had lent me two weeks before, and I lost my temper completely, and then she tried to stab the flat screen TV. Castration, of course. I've been reading Jung, but this is backtracking for me from Deleuze. He explained castration as something about figuring out you aren't your mother's only passion, knowledge from which all objective desire springs. I am sure that I'm getting this wrong.

But anyway, this liaison is a slightly absurd cross-section. I was laid off a few months ago from another job in a cube, and my reality is one in which you pay hundreds of dollars every month--in late fees, interest rates, jacked-rate shit apartments, overdraft fees--to be poor. He is making more money in his bonus check than my ex's yearly income, grinding callouses into his fingers, reading Zizek, and thinking about a way out.

This absurdity is heightened by the fact that I have borrowed a couple thousand dollars from him in as many months, which adds a capitalist grime to the ordeal; I'm somewhat kept, bought, possessed. He actually mentioned "pay-off"--that literal phrasing--in our first fight. I act like a ditz, maybe playing a role, or embarrassed. I've never liked someone who made more than like a thousand dollars a month; those guys never seemed "real," as in, "keeping it real."

But also, I spent a couple years as a mom on food stamps married to a guy who took his barista career really seriously while making latte art for the Christian straight-edge teens who got him hard. So maybe I'm just wondering what will happen in this situation that has never happened to me before, because something has to happen, and I'm not sure what. Maybe he'll decide I really am a grifter, or a little too trashy, or unreliable. Or a slower death: we'll start going to the mall and Starbucks a lot. I won't write anymore.

I am right at that point of being low-income that becomes very hard to come back from, not because of the circumstances, but out of the harsh, dark no-longer-giving-a-fuckedness that sets in after so many hours in check cashing places or getting 12 calls a day from creditors or screaming psychotically into the phone at a customer service rep for your mafia bank, which is of course not going to reverse the overdraft fee they orchestrated by holding your check one more day, because they can. This not-giving-a-fuckedness is a part of capitalism, which breeds organically in the hearts and lungs of our civilization: the intoxication of having, the folding-in of not having, the guilty contributions to Haiti or your welfare girlfriend.

I am not a communist. I'm apolitical, really. This is not because of my status as a single mom who has to call the maintenance guy to pump shit off my floor, or because I grew up watching my mom wait for the mail the same way I do, hoping for a check. It is something else.

My drunk antelope has been screaming at me for about three hours a day since she was born: first because she had colic, and now, I guess, because she's going through castration. I've started screaming back, like those mothers on the bus in San Francisco, harried by the constant nagging of a ceaselessly desiring, ceaselessly needing machine. My schedule has been bat-shit insane for more than two years now, running 12-20 hours a day without much break except to sometimes drop her off and go on a date or get drunk with my friends. My hair is developing gray strands. I'm 30!

But I love her. This love is not like my new love; it does not make me comfortable. And he does--makes me comfortable, in a way that obscures knowledge. The world's suffering remains in view. But I no longer care. I don't read or write; I am without lack. I have nothing to exorcise.

The richness of not-having opposes having, and this is in the same way that Lacan's unconscious opposes knowing: not as a dumping ground, but as its own florid seeing, speaking, being. Showing through into consciousness via dreams, slips, symbols, and archetypes, it is prophesy and animal. I am narcoleptic, which means that I fall asleep before I actually fall asleep. Dreamlike hallucinations have been a part of my nightly routine since I was in kindergarten. This isn't romantic or exciting; it is strangers in my room. The knowledge of being crazy. Inescapable. It makes me dread sleep and night. It makes me want to stay numb. And I wonder who I would be without this problem. It produces my charm. Without it, I would just be a bitch at the mall.

You can't go to the mall without becoming one because every bitch at the mall is a bitch at the mall. Don't go there; that's it. And this is the actual terror of being: not injustice, but the ultimatum of having become. You can't be anything without being, also, a parody of that thing. This is true of skid row psychos and kept women. Artists and felons. Baristas, engineers, and single moms who glorify being bad at life. $4 wine will always taste terrible, unless you get used to it. The good shit will always be more expensive, more privileged, a justification of some kind. Your boobs are eventually going to suck, or be fake. There is no in-between; the in-between just heightens the absurdity of wanting to have and be everything. Proud and humble, suffering and comfortable. This is the nightmare of being, and it supersedes capitalism. It's original sin. It exists beyond good and evil.

Knowing-ness has been called satanic, or at least a fall from grace. But the babbling horror of not-knowing, dream-horror, is also a state of hell. Deleuze seeks refuge in the schitzo. He says, write your own book. He goes to the bottom: don't write. "Every writer is a sell-out." This is where Deleuze meets Lacan. Two wordsmiths, aware that language has washed away knowing. It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to find god. Christ changed water into wine. These parables were about love as the actual catalyst of men: not communism, or knowledge, not having or not-having, not the material indulgence of wealth, or the creative self-absorption of poverty. But the need for none of these things. I would rather be in this shitty apartment drinking drug store liver rot and watching Barney with my retarded antelope than traveling the world without her; I would look for her everywhere. And maybe this is why philosophy avoids love: because it is alive, and wants to be.

2 comments:

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  2. 1)the thing about expensive wine - one thing i liked in ben franklin's autobiography was how he made a point of NOT developing appreciation of fine food (and wine, by extension) - it saved him a lot of suffering when he inevitably encountered the less-than-fine

    2) potty training - have you read foxx and azrin on this? - they developed their method with the developmentally disabled, then published an adaptation for the general public as 'toilet training in less than a day'

    you could google "Guidelines for Potty Training Program by Foxx and Azrin"

    3) philosophy and aliveness -

    The last two paragraphs of Erich Fromm's The Heart of Man are relevant here:

    Man's heart can harden; it can become inhuman, yet never nonhuman. It always remains man's heart. We are all determined by the fact that we have been born human, and hence by the never-ending task of having to make choices. We must choose the means together with the aims. We must not rely on anyone's saving us, but be very aware of the fact that wrong choices make us incapable of saving ourselves.

    Indeed, we must become aware in order to choose the good -- but no awareness will help us if we have lost the capacity to be moved by the distress of another human being, by the friendly gaze of another person, by the song of a bird, by the greenness of grass. If man becomes indifferent to life there is no longer any hope that he can choose the good. Then, indeed, his heart will have so hardened that his "life" will be ended. If this should happen to the entire human race or to its most powerful members, the the life of mankind may be extinguished at the very moment of its greatest promise.

    ReplyDelete