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i’ve been blogging for about 7 years now – a staggering and unholy fact. This is my third blog: the first actually began in autumn 2004 and fizzled quickly out as every post was a tediously hate-filled rant about my awful boss and my awful job; i began another blog in July 2005 at the suggestion of a brainless but charming gay temp colleague, who said “you could write, like, a really interesting blog because you’re, like, really cynical and sarcastic.” i found a style which didn’t bore me; perhaps this was to do with my growing acceptance of my fate, that most people have jobs they hate and i was really no different, just more damaged by it because less accustomed to prolonged tedium and bullying.
This blog had almost no readers about the first 6 months – even friends couldn’t be bothered reading it. It wasn’t i think very different to what i write now, but most of my friends don’t use the internet or don’t read anything except manga or action thrillers; my life is short on manga, action, or thrills. Misery, destitution, suffering, woe, brutality, mutilation, distress, dismay, agony, pangs of agony, anguish, occasional angst, illness, insanity, torpor, bleak disillusion, hopelessness, dread, despair, asthma, exhaustion, futility, dreariness, hippy scum, rage, poverty, parrots, yes, action no.
i didn’t have internet access at home, was too closely observed to blog at work, and the local, almost totally bookless library was full of kids playing computer games and screaming in Albanian or Urdu, so i only wrote every few weeks. i had no other writing projects and found some satisfaction in taking a moment from my worthless existence and forming it into a blog post. The formation of structure interested me, how i could begin with two moments (leaving 50 pence in the coffee machine when i was dirt broke, and spilling coffee all over my kitchen worktop) and, from these, a structure would emerge, and something beyond the events – a principle or an atmosphere.
Since no one read my blog, i just wrote to please myself. This was when, through reading the Grumpy Old Bookman, i realised i would never be published, never be able to escape minimum wage data entry except through death (or TEFL, as it later transpired). i remember being quite excited when my blog gathered more readers, in spring 2006; but then i realised it would never lead to anything and so just continued writing to amuse myself.
Unfortunately, having more readers meant more comments and while most were reasonable enough, every week there would be some anonymous drive-by abuse, or a regular angrily taking issue with me for holding a different opinion, or weighing pompously in with their trivial, witless ideas (all accompanied by a jabbing-a-finger-at-my-chest-and-sneering tone, the boundless self-confidence of the ignorant). Soon, these kinds of comments came every day as two people i knew in real life started stalking me: both seemed to think each post was a personal communication, one leaving enormous, meandering, self-congratulatory comments which i stopped reading, the other leaving snide jeers and putdowns. Then there were the stalkers i didn’t even know in real life, for example a stunted academic from the University of British Columbia, who seemed to conceive a sexualised hatred of me and felt a need to leave almost daily comments calling me gay, then accusing me of writing “unpleasant right-wing rants”, of being insane, an idiot, a cunt etc. etc. For all the pointless, ineffectual vitriol of the comments – i’m not offended if someone i’ve never met tells me i’m gay – the raw hostility and persistence was disturbing, and in the end i just disabled comments altogether.
My two real-life stalkers were unusual but the basic fault – the misprision that i write to please and flatter and entertain my readers – this is strangely prevalent. Many other comments made no sense unless one assumed i was writing specifically to please the commentators, that they had paid or otherwise done me a great service, and i was on my knees trying to mollify and amuse them. Thus, perhaps, their rage when i wrote something displeasing unto their eyes.
It wasn’t just the psychos, almost all my regular commentators at some point left a “how dare you write this, you fucker, I paid you to entertain me and pander to my beliefs and ego, what the fuck is this shit?” kind of comment. i believe this is partly down to narcissism and egomania, partly something to do with the internet. Perhaps because computers are expensive, and internet access is expensive, and both are advertised as forms of entertainment, people mistakenly suppose that everything on the internet is there to flatter and amuse them.
i deleted my last blog after receiving a venomous comment from a reader i had wrongly thought a friend. i felt so shocked by the malice and nastiness that i didn’t want to write any more, then didn’t want such people to read anything i write, past or otherwise; so i deleted it.
i disabled comments on this blog in the first few weeks after the stunted academic started spewing more of his sexualised hatred; and this turned out for the best.
A few weeks ago, my manga-reading friend the Viking justified staring at a cashier’s tits in the supermarket: “I was not looking at her tits. I was looking at her name badge. I wanted to know her name for later use. I assumed that if she was wearing a badge it was so people could read it. So I read it. It just so happened to be positioned over her tits. She shouldn’t have worn a name badge if she didn’t want people to read it. I presume if something is written, it is intended to be read.”
This is an interesting idea. i think with the exception of emails, Facebook posts, and text messages, i don’t write anything so others can read it. i just write to clarify things to myself. Before i began blogging i kept a paper & ink journal and still do, for the things i wouldn’t expose to vermin. This blog is merely a way for me to make some things clearer to myself; and i place it here, without advertisements, so if people find it by chance, and want to read it they can. i can imagine my stalkers sneering that this is narcissistic of me, that i think i’m so special, or “precious”; but since i don’t advertise my blog anywhere, you wouldn’t find it without looking for it – and so i don’t see i need apologise, any more than i will apologise to these people for existing. It may be that my existence is a mistake, and certainly i do not belong in their world; but i don’t see how i impinge upon or disturb theirs, unless they choose it.
Last night, talking about Michael, a friend said: “Sometimes I think there are more sociopaths than normal people in the world.” i use the term loosely, as i don’t think psychological categories are anything more than human inventions, like the idea of “summer”; as there are summer-like days in spring and autumn, and an English summer is usually cold and rainy, so with personality disorders and the like – they are approximations. However, i’ve met a few people i would unreservedly describe as sociopaths. And there are certainly many crazy people in this world. Hence, perhaps, the popularity of shows like Dexter and The Sopranos.
i’ve been watching both recently. The Sopranos is, i suppose, realistic: the central character, Tony Soprano, is a cross between a mobster and a responsible family man, with a big middle class house and two middle class children; other mobsters are out and out sociopaths. He has panic attacks and goes to a psychiatrist. He is, in his peculiar way, a decent man, living an indecent life.
Dexter is about a serial killer who works as a blood spatter analyst for the police. Unrealistic but it is at least possible. As a child his murderous impulses were controlled by his cop father, who recognises him for what he is, but trains him to kill carefully and only those who have it coming. So he kills, frequently, but preys more or less exclusively on criminals. Given the character’s reverence for his father, and his intelligence, i suppose it’s just about possible. It’s not on the same level as The Sopranos but nonetheless competently-done and enjoyable. i see Dexter as primarly comic; while it is often serious and explores Dexter’s attempt to “fit in”, to mask his true nature from his peers, it is fundamentally humorous; if i tried to watch it as a serious exploration of human nature, it would be unbearable. The Sopranos by contrast is often amusing, sometimes hilarious, but is fundamentally serious, an examination of how human beings can live a shameful, violent existence. The humour is Beckettian, emerging naturally from darkness. Consider:
A Dexter episode features a psychiatrist, whose patients tend to commit suicide. Dexter visits him and we see the psychiatrist’s uncanny insight and so on. Likewise in The Sopranos, Dr Melfi is a generally astute observer, though she is also quite silly.
When i was a teenager, living with my sister and parents, my sister bought “Murder Casebooks”, detailed accounts of serial killers. She had an early interest in such matters. i borrowed these and learnt that serial killers sometimes try to join the police, presumably because they like the idea of becoming authority figures, with a badge and a gun. Of the out & out sociopaths i’ve met to date, three wanted to become counsellors: my sister, my tai chi tutor, and a feckless Michael-esque conman i knew at university. With all three, my initial reaction was: you? you want to be a counsellor?
Another beast i knew, not a sociopath but a typically Michael-esque animal, also planned to be a counsellor, though mercifully he was too lazy and disorganised to take it further.
In our society, the counsellor stands alongside the cop as an authority figure, holding power over the weak. i would imagine a fair few socipaths could be netted if one looked closely at applications for social work, counselling, and the police. i doubt many get to the point of becoming psychiatrists, since this requires first a medical degree, and then a further qualification in Psychiatry. Being utterly ammoral and indifferent to others, sociopaths are also usually incapable of disciplined hard work – my tai chi tutor being the only exception, but it seemed his only viable discipline was tai chi, nothing else really interested him. He was in some ways a classic Guardianista: he hated America, cars, anyone with more money than himself; he was a vegetarian and carefully recycled all his trash; in other ways his sensibility was similar to mine – a loathing for chavs and welfare scroungers. But fundamentally, he was Agent Smith:
I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.
His fundamental attitude was a loathing for humanity, not just as an abstract idea but in the particular. He loathed everyone, had no friends, and could only relate to others if they respected and admired him, accepted his superior Zen dictates and more or less worshipped him as a god. He went through friends, and students, extremely quickly.
The sociopath stands apart from society. He cannot live alone, for he lacks substance, internal balance. He needs others, to affirm his projected identity. But the sociopath exhausts friends very quickly. They sense his total lack of interest in their own feelings; his total lack of empathy, insight; that for him, they are just tools, mirrors for his own fraudulent image. He is perpetually irritated that they even have inner feelings, their own worlds; he has to stamp this out, to destroy their interiority and reduce them to inert mirrors, witnesses, of his perfection and glory. They should only exist as bit-part actors in the grand drama that is his biopic, in which he is not merely the central character but the only person you remember. As the credits roll, you should forget everyone except the sociopath, you should even forget yourself, and only recall his splendour.
There are degrees, from my sister who is a true sociopath but also reclusive and Shelob- like, happy to sleep in darkness and only venture out for prey; to the conman i knew at university, who was an extrovert. But they all lack any capacity for empathy. i suppose most human beings have a socipathic element, the question is how do they live with it, how do they negotiate with their own narcissism?
It is common that those who avow humanistic, sharing, loving, hippy-like ideals are narcissists; certainly, it was true of the hippy i knew in Kassel. It does not follow that fascists are well-balanced and sane; ideological pronouncements are no use. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
i taught this word to Juniper, as part of my courting. i now teach it to each student. They don’t need words like deadline, appointment, reciprocate, diligence, etc. They need words like scum.
In German it is Abschaum.
i usually use it in reference to the English. Sometimes i call them “the scum of the Earth.” One of my favourite groups, a bunch of Schnitzel-eating engineers, moved from a spacious office to a cramped, hot room with a view of a brick wall.
“What happened to your old room?” quoth i.
“The managers say it is too good for us so we must leave. Now we are here!” Engineer 1 replied bravely.
“This is a shit room. This is a room for scum, Abschaum. They must think you are scum.”
“Yes, that is us. We are the scum in this company and we belong here in the scum room.”
And so on.
There is one word i teach to every group. From absolute beginners through to near-native speakers; business folk, private citizens, military, engineers, it is all the same. Each student will learn this one word.
i have decided to enable to comments on this one blog post. You are invited to guess the word in the comments. The winner may buy me a drink, if we ever meet.
Life continues. i’ve had little work this month and will have almost none in August. Just got the first part of the bill from the French, for the night in hospital (half of the money i’d saved to pay my taxes & survive summer), no doubt the ambulance bill will come separately; things will get difficult then, as it should be about 4 – 6 months’ wages.
Money perplexes me. i am not too prodigal, rarely go out, rarely buy things, but every year i slide further into debt. i was doing reasonably well in spring then decided to visit my family & friends in England, so splurged on a plane ticket for June; went to France in May; nearly died; had to buy another train ticket to leave a day early; then couldn’t afford to take time off work to go to England; then i couldn’t get a refund from the airline; so between now and spring i’ve gone from feeling i might survive to autumn, to feeling i probably won’t get past August, though i suppose i’ll muddle through somehow, borrowing yet more money and sinking deeper into shame & infamy.
When i compare myself with Michael, i am responsible and sane. He came to Germany about 6 months ago, was fired from McLingua for blazing his female students, missing too many classes because he’s too disorganised and lazy, getting in fights with bouncers, and being a bestial monster from New York. He then drifted, sponging off others, without a fixed place to live or a job, spending recklessly, e.g. getting 100 € from his grandmother via Western Union and spending it immediately on booze. He got a new job at another language school and was fired in the first month, for telling his boss to fuck off.
Now he plans to go to Malta to join a friend, off whom he says he can indefinitely sponge if need be (and since he can’t hold down a job, it seems necessary). However, he lost his passport somewhere in Berlin, was too lazy to get a new one, and so is trying to get to Malta by train and ferry, to avoid passport checks. He has no money for a new passport or transport, as he spends every penny he gets on booze and drugs, immediately. It is hard to imagine a more feckless and irresponsible human being. He reminds me strongly of Richard Savage, as he emerges in Johnson’s life:
To supply him with money was a hopeless attempt, for no sooner did he see himself master of a sum sufficient to set him free from care for a day, than he became profuse and luxurious. When once he had entered a tavern, or engaged in a scheme of pleasure, he never retired till want of money obliged him to some new expedient. If he was entertained in a family nothing was any longer to be regarded there but amusements and jollity: wherever Savage entered he immediately expected that order and business should fly before him, that all should thenceforward be left to hazard, and that no dull principle of domestick management should be opposed to his inclination, or intrude upon his gaiety.
He has been ejected from i think 5 flats since coming to Munich – so about one every month or two. It always starts the same, he says it’s a really cool place and his flatmates are great, then after a few weeks he says they’re douchebags and look at him funny and complain about him, then they ask him to leave and he somehow finds a new place.
i don’t think i’m as savage as Michael and yet i owe vastly more money, to friends, family, and my bank. True, i’m 13 years older and when i began work in 2004 i didn’t owe a penny, was even in credit; but all the same, i feel a little taken aback to be even worse off than Michael. i am a reasonably good teacher, have never missed a single lesson through laziness or disorganisation, am rarely late, my students often request me again and sometimes even refuse to take a different teacher; and yet, in terms of our bank balances, i’m further in the red than Michael. i don’t even earn much more, as i have almost no work now that it’s summer.
It doesn’t seem to make any difference what i do, how i act, if i spend money or don’t. Bad things happen and i suddenly find myself stone broke and facing homelessness once more. i can take some strange consolation in the knowledge that this is not so uncommon for English teachers: i know very few who survive purely from teaching; most have a partner with a real job as it is almost impossible to survive in this profession. You have good months where you work 16 hours a day, then bad months with nothing, and at the end of the year you have less than nothing.
In a sense, my asthma is the physical expression of my total inadequacy as a human being, that i cannot breathe the same air as others. It isn’t made for me, just as the world is not my world. It’s not that i belong in some other world; there is no other world. Hence some of my students regard me as an exotic and improbable beast, an elberry forsooth. And just as Richard Savage should probably not have been born, so with myself.
1. i’ve discovered an interest in football. i still dislike the normal matches, which tend to be pedestrian and gutless, but national matches reveal something, indirectly or not, about national character. The English cannot dribble; when they receive a pass it takes them a few seconds to gain full control of the ball, most of their passes are bad, and they cannot get past defenders. Accordingly, they just kick the ball in the general direction of the enemy’s goals and then hope for the best. They are pampered millionaires who lack passion or intensity; quite often, they made no attempt to intercept a ball because they would have had to run. This reflects the English national character – a total lack of interest in hard work.
The Germans have generally excellent ball control, and can receive a fast pass and neutralise the extant velocity in an instant; some of them can and do slip past defenders, and they work fairly well as a team, compared to England. They mostly play with real zeal and guts.
The English footballers gesticulate violently and curse their team mates after a bad pass. They all look quite vain and sadistic. Consider:
and so on. Stephen Gerrard is the only English footballer who doesn’t look like a vile rapist (he is a Catholic). The Germans by contrast look like human beings, the kind of chaps your grandmother would call “nice young men” and serve Battenburg cake; for example Miroslav Klose:
If John Terry, Rooney, etc. were not footballers they would be drug dealers. Klose et al. would be engineers or gardeners or something suitably Schnitzel-like.
2. i consider myself German now and stopped watching the 2012 Euro thing after Germany lost to Italy (their own fault for not ensuring a solid defence). It was a depressing match as Germany fell apart before the haphazard skill of Italy, principally of Mario Balotelli. This is a good example of the tactical element of football – Italy couldn’t score a goal against the much weaker England because England stacked up a solid defence; Germany had no defence and only managed to score a goal against Italy because Mesut Özil is badass.
My only consolation was that Balotelli did something exceedingly awesome after scoring a goal – he stripped off his shirt and assumed a stance of immobile, Gladiator-like supremeness:
i was struck by his pose, his immobility, very different to the usual Italian volubility, or the English swearing and screaming. To abstain from fuss is uncommon, especially in football (though of course it was a deliberate, ostentatious act).
Within 24 hours the internet was full of photoshopped Balotelli pictures, ridiculing his Gladiatorial pose; for example, holding garden shears. i know the kind of people who do this: my schoolfriend Shrekh, a fat self-loathing Muslim, has a particular taste for grotesque jokes and within a few days of 9/11 was gleefully repeating hideous “jokes” he had found on the internet. After a while i decided not to tell him anything i cared about, as he would almost invariably defile it in some way, without even realising he was doing so. If he had a picture of the face of the BVM he would photoshop it with a spiff or a cock or horns – he wouldn’t be able not to.
i believe such folk are motivated by an Iago-like aversion to beauty or power or achievement. As Iago says of Cassio: “he hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly”. And Cassio is a relatively ordinary man – just not as base as Iago. The Iagos lack any sense of respect, or of the sacred. They would defile anything they cannot understand, anything beyond them.
Football has become a celebrity circus, so the viewers and journalists prey as much on the private lives of the players as on their performance. Journalists and their ilk are unnerved and then jeeringly contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t offer himself to their understanding. It’s one thing to be a staid family man and do nothing remarkable – then one escapes censure; but to stand immobile and expressionless, this provokes and enrages. Hence the photoshopping.
3. Michael, bemused, asked why i’m not famous. He said i should try to publish my books and be famous. i briefly explained that publishers have no interest in anyone except footballers and TV stars, and i’m neither. Ten years ago, or when i was temping, i fantasized about living as “a writer”, but now it has no appeal at all. i increasingly favour Facebook over blogging because i can choose who reads me on the former; for me, privacy is more important than being connected. When i had comments a goodly proportion were drive-by idiots and deranged stalkers, the kind of abuse Peter Hitchens attracts – patronising, aggressive imbeciles.
The Viking asked what kind of job i want, if i don’t want to teach any more. No idea, really. i no longer wish to be a professional writer; publishers seem, on the whole, to be worthless, self-regarding scum, and anyone who lives in London or is involved in media circles runs a grave risk – of becoming an apple polisher. Instead, i wish to be invisible, to escape their world.
4. Thanks to spotify, i’ve discovered Lana Del Rey. i vaguely remember a review a year ago, mentioning controversy and how people hate her, so i didn’t expect to like her music. It is, however, very good – expertly-written songs and a rich, ornate voice. i would only cavil that the production is too dominant, so on first hearing every song sounds similar. It’s a mannered album, purposefully atmospheric (Tindersticks),veiled, exquisite.
After playing her album several times a day for a week i was moved to read some reviews. To my surprise, she has attracted a good deal of loathing from music journalists. Some of it one should expect – some journalists and websites specialise in contempt, and reserve praise for artists no one else has heard of (when these artists become well-known, they are summarily relegated to contempt).
The journalists seem chiefly exercised by Lana Del Rey having reinvented herself, with a new stage name and look. The criticisms are largely ad hominem, abusive, accusations of insincerity and so on, though the journalists also claim she can’t sing. At this point i think of Dr Johnson likening a bad writer to a bad carpenter – that just as one would tell a bad carpenter his table is wonky, so you may criticise a bad writer; and not being able to write a book or make a table should not inhibit the critic. It’s true that, for example, i feel able to criticise the English football team without myself being able to play. But there is something parasitic and repulsive about hatchet jobs and i feel uncomfortable with critics who spend too much time attacking; especially when one feels they are establishing or reinforcing their reputation as discerning, no-nonsense men of the world, that their attack is itself insincere and reprehensible. For when you criticise you imply your superiority as the discerning judge.
It is common to journalism where one must cause a big splash, say something controversial, rip someone to shreds, or acclaim them as the next Bob Dylan. Music journalists are in addition often quite appalling human beings. It is curious that they should inquire so deeply into Lana Del Rey’s alleged character, as if they know anything at all – musicians seem to me as opaque as actors, and there is little to be gained from biographical examination; nor does it illuminate the music.
But if you are in any way famous, journalists expect you to offer up your innermost heart for their entertainment. It is not enough to play football or make music or write: you must open your life to the parasitic vermin, you must give full-spread interviews and let Hello! in your house and film your own death; and the vermin don’t like to be played. So they hate Lana Del Rey, because she is so overt, she makes no attempt to hide her artifice – rather, her music is inherently artificial and is about artifice, and like Dante’s Commedia, repels modern fools and simpletons. To conceal your heart will provoke those who lack heart; they wish to raven on the lives of others; they have themselves no substance, no passion, and so no understanding.
5. More and more i feel that one can only arrive at worthwhile knowledge through isolation. One must have, to adapt Colonel Kurtz, freedom from the opinions of others; freedom from the opinions of yourself. And for that one requires separation.
1. i taught my favourite group again this week, and did a series of polar bear roleplays:
i) A rival company has sponsered a Siberian tiger and now people are buying their products and saying you are shit. How will you deal with this?
The solution was to send two of the students to the North Pole to look at polar bears.
ii) The two students brought a polar bear cub back and have installed it in their office. It roams freely about eating chairs and computers, moaning, and attacking people. A haughty manager must take the students to task.
This was a particularly productive roleplay. i was the polar bear, who they named Wolfie after their detested waste of space department manager. For added realia i snarled and took a violent swipe at the students as they were saying: “Oh but Wolfie is so nice and gentle and friendly!” i also made low bear-like moaning sounds, ranging from the lecherous (staring at their tits) to morose & inconsolable (when the managers proposed shooting me).
iii) The rival company have a dog who goes from department to department so borderline burn-out cases can pet and coo over him, as a stress-relief device. i nominated one student as a busybody who wants to use Wolfie the polar bear in this role.
In the end they decided to build a special zoo for me, on top of the company headquarters.
2. This is one of the few classes i would teach for free, if i had enough money. The rest are pleasant enough but it is work and i’m glad when i can go home. i have a German-English tandem with Bettina, one of the students in the polar bear group, and moaned that my job is pointless buffoonery and almost none of my students really improve. She said they’d had teachers in the past and made absolutely no improvement with their grammar exercises and business articles; my lessons at least help a little, as i get them to talk and provide new vocab, and correct heinous grammar failures.
i feel that my job is worthless and i am a fake. Bettina replied that most people have worthless jobs and the more adroit the faker, the higher he goes. This is of course true and i suppose every civilisation, once it advances beyond subsistence farming, tends to waste money on apparently pointless work. i feel sanguine about the huge expenditure of the burial tombs in Luxor but irritatedly depressed about the mass of useless and highly paid middle managers i saw in the NHS, in my hospital job. Perhaps it’s that non-utilitarian work, such as illustrating manuscripts, writing music, building tombs, can express an aesthetic or religious need, and while such needs are not essential for basic physical survival they are nonetheless part of being human (thus there often seems something weirdly non-human about people whose aesthetic or religious sensibility is either lacking or just radically different to ours).
3. At present i’m attempting to convince myself that the aesthetic impulse is not wholly ridiculous and despicable. Teaching manager types at large multinational companies, in the most expensive & conservative city in Germany, is a sobering ordeal. Many of them appreciate art, some even read from time to time, but in their world there is no real monetary value in creativity, it’s just a peculiar hobby. Several of my students, i realise, regard me as a bizarre but diverting oddity. One, a regional manager at a big American company, asked if i’d thought about moving to a different country, where the cost of living isn’t so high. What he meant was that in Germany it’s not easy to survive without real skills, such as accountancy, law, engineering. English Literature is not merely useless, it is absurd. The chap is friendly and enjoys our lessons but i get the feeling that for him our lessons are like a visit to the zoo, to see some weirdly maladapted creature.
When i began teaching a group here in Munich, a dry-as-dust HR lawyer student remarked acidly that it’s stupid to study literature, or anything artistic, at university, as it won’t lead to a job. i kept my old poker face and just nodded agreement (and i half-agree with her). She continued, waving a hand generously, that of course if people want to read books they can and no one should stop them, but first you must get an education in engineering or law or finance, because it’s not sensible to think you can survive in this world by reading books.
i still teach this group and feel the lawyer’s grim disapproval of me and my character in every lesson. She embodies for me the materialist, utilitarian drive of this civilisation. After being rejected for about 250 jobs in 3 years, i came to realise i have no value in this world, that even worse the talents i have are absurd and frivolous, and it would be better not to have them. i am in this a polar bear in a world without ice or snow, only black rock and desert sun. Yes, the white fur and blubber is kind of interesting but really, such a thing should not be.
It’s difficult to persuade myself that my talents are anything other than absurd and contemptible, when i spend all day talking to engineers, lawyers, accountants. It is their world.
4. i have lived under the influence of this belief for the last decade. It’s not that i am wrong, exactly – i was certainly ill-suited to minimum wage data entry, and while i doubtless could have done conventional graduate jobs, i couldn’t get past an interview, no matter how i shuffle and dissemble and what have you. Outside of technical jobs (engineering, science, finance) you need a certain blandness, to be apparently predictable, sane, safe. The ideal is Bridget Jones:
All the successful people i know in England are variants of Bridget Jones. They like London. They have children. They go to gyms. For them, art is ancillary to their self-satisfaction, like having an Audi rather than a Volkswagen: it has no real functional significance but it’s entertaining and gives them something to talk about at their cocktail parties.
5. The mistake i’ve made – which reflects my flawed character – has been to try and keep up with the Joneses, out of a belief that since it’s their world if i want to live here i must be like them. It’s never worked.
i’m trying to extricate myself from my misprision. At first glance, the lawyer is correct. Knowing about HR law and financial regulations is valuable; knowing about Shakespeare is not. However, this doesn’t stand up to examination. Why exactly are the former valuable? Why live?
Ultimately, the HR lawyer and her ilk locate value in providing services that businesses value; but they stop here. If businesses considered it valuable to juggle multicoloured balls, and financial regulations were disregarded, they would despise the financial experts and praise the jugglers. It is impossible to validate the HR lawyer’s valuation: it takes too much for granted, and without thought-training she would not even realise how much she cannot comprehend.
Certainly, you do not require philosophy to do well in this world. You need only be a Bridget Jones, that will suffice.
So i am trying to move beyond this world, to fully accept that its verdicts are of no account. Hard, as without money i cannot afford real medical insurance and so have nearly died twice in the last year. But the lawyer could not provide an argument for life, only for making money. To get beyond the lawyer’s worldly frame one needs something else.
Within this world there is no justification for art. Within the categories of the world, art is merely entertainment and since people can live without entertainment – can indeed work 12 hours a day and spend the remaining 12 sleeping, exercising, and eating – there is no reason to think or write or do anything except work & consume. The lawyer and all the Joneses exist wholly within the world and cannot query its determinations. They will only see beyond the world when they die, and then it will be, if not too late, then at least not the best time for re-evaluation.
6. Last week, thinking over this, i got on the s-bahn and decided to continue reading the Psalms. The first was Psalm 37:
Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
i doubt i’ll ever do more than barely survive in this world but i feel i should just continue as i am and trust that things will more or less work out, over time. Instead of pandering to the Joneses, i am trying to escape this world altogether.
i was pondering the Michael case. i’m a little puzzled that people prize their ipads and what not but have no interest in books, since a great deal of the internet is just words. It’s true that Michael used his iphone for playing extremely inane computer games and watching youtube clips, before he drunkedly left it on the back seat of a cab. But nonetheless.
i rarely read books at home now and so don’t particularly mind my hour on the s-bahns to & from work, as i use this for undistracted book-reading. i enjoy reading books but in my very brief time at home tend to just watch Sopranos episodes, films, post on Facebook, and read blogs & what not. i once thought that i didn’t read much anymore until i copy & pasted a Word document of blog posts & articles from the McLingua computers, and read it at home (before i had private internet). i did a word count and found i’d read 60,000 words of articles & blog posts in one day. i hadn’t realised how much i’d read as it wasn’t strenuous really, and because the longest article was about 5,000 words it was a kind of literary channel hopping.
i do something similar with my Kindle, which i take when i have a 16-hour day and want more than one book to read. At present i’m reading Dion Fortune’s Mystical Qabalah, Roman Imperialism and Runic Literacy (Svante Fischer, a Facebook find), Malory’s Le Mort d’Arthur, the Bible (Psalms), Byron’s Don Juan, the Collected Works of Wittgenstein, and Richard Mitchell’s The Gift of Fire. i’ve rarely read only one book at a time and see nothing wrong with only reading a book for 5 – 10 minutes a day, though it doesn’t really work with novels. A Kindle isn’t so evidently different, in use, to a 16th Century bookwheel.
i think the difference is to do with the nature of physical objects, artefacts. Every physical object gathers to it non-physical energies, to do with the emotions and thoughts of the living. Even materialist dullards feel this, to some degree. As a hobo in Germany i can’t lug my 1000-book library about, or my 800 CDs or 500 DVDs, so i am reliant on electronic files. Just as even the highest quality MP3 is notably thinner than a CD, so with all electronica. i’ve bought replacement CDs and books and always feel a difference, because the physical artefact is different, even if it came out of the same factory at the same time. But if i delete a Kindle ebook i can just download it again and basta, no difference.
i rarely buy replacement books, i think i’ve only done it with Dante’s Inferno, Shakespeare, and the Bible. i left my hefty Shakespeare & KJV Bible in England and so bought new versions in Germany. i read Inferno to death and when pages were falling out i ripped it apart and used parts for, e.g. wrapping delicate packages (flapjacks). When i bought exactly the same edition of Inferno i felt an alienating shock at its sterility and had to read it a few times to get used to it.
Easy with books, where the fingers and pencil leave their mark, but i feel this even with CDs. It is because every physical object takes on some degree of consciousness, or non-physical energy, and so a Kindle or ipad is more like a very old mirror, with many owners. i suppose if you use a Kindle purely for reading black magic, child porn novels, and anti-semitic tracts, it may have a particular aura to it, but otherwise it is no substitute, magically, for a book (and magic is just how things are – for everyone).
i like books and am even warily respectful thereof. i recognise and generally value the energies they attract. With electronica i feel nothing. If i lost my Kindle i would buy another and have a few tedious hours downloading the same books for free, and then there would really be no difference.
i think people like Michael don’t feel comfortable with books because of their particular, unique energy. They are not so easily used and discarded as electronica. i have books i bought in the 1990s and they are still worth reading. i threw away my Amstrad CPC 464 a long time ago; likewise my Amiga.
An ipad (etc) offers the ultimate convenience; everything is discardable. You read for entertainment, and if you get bored you read something else or watch youtube clips. You do not in any way respect the electronic files. It is the perfect technology for impatient, hyperactive adolescents, like Michael or even my more literate friend Bonehead (who no longer watches films, despite being a scriptwriter – instead he only watches scenes from films). If growing decently older is to do with learning to respect your world, most people remain adolescents, and are so encouraged by their technologies.
i wonder sometimes how my last life would have regarded my sorceries. i think, after an initial difficulty, he might have understood, that there is no such thing as “the real world” of materialists, a realm free of enchantment, magic, beauty, grace, where the only true things are money and work and suffering and death.
Our culture, if you can call it that, tends towards the disembodied (you can even observe this in porn, which grows increasingly implausible and robotic, to the point where you can find manga porn), the fraudulently gnostic. One reason i use a typewriter or pen for my real writings – i value the physical, for this is the root of magic; not mystical incantations & what have you, but real physical things. You may, by all means, have your angels and archangels and sephiroth, but it begins, and returns to, the physical. Some of my greatest magics have been ordinary human acts, with a runic accompaniment.
The older i get, and i am now about 4500 years old, the more i value the physical and regard the electronic, the disposable, as a 2nd-rate convenience. You can’t do magic without sacrifice, and everything is magical, finally. Thus i write now by hand or with my GDR typewriter:
If one wonders why there is so little great modern art, it is partly because the money people have regulated everything, so it is exceedingly hard for anything good to make an impact; and partly to do with the loss of magic, the physical. Consider instead, roughly 2000 years ago, Catullus and his boat:
CATULLUS ON HIS BOAT
the little boat you see before you friends
was once she says unbeatable for speed
and nothing on the sea she says could catch her
with oar or sail
the truth of this the stormy adriatic
could testify the cyclades or rhodes
the thracian or the savage pontic sea
where she was first a tree
there too on cytorus she felt the wind
and boxwood slopes beside the black sea port
would know that from her very birth she stood
upon the topmost peak
then first in those far waves she dipped her oars
and brought her master home through raging seas
tacking to right or left or running straight
before the wind
no votive gifts for her to sea-shore gods
since she was safe from her first setting out
to cross the deep from furthest ocean’s bounds
to this smooth pool
but all these things are past and she grows old
and dreaming gently in these quiet streams
returns her thanks for all that she has been
to the twin gods
(tr. david lisle crane)
and as Catullus wouldn’t burn his faithful but now uselessly old boat, so the good magician recognises that which endures, and gives his fidelity thereto.