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Taking Care of Memories

Barney lamented the transience of memory. That it is the strange paradox of our memory to betray our trust, and slowly lose the postcards of pain that we so assiduously collected. In the midst of our suffering, the overwhelming “hereness” of a moment, an eternity, endured in pain, our sole light of consolation was indeed the pain itself- how we managed to grasp it (like grasping an ocean) and encase it so that we may remember it. So that we may be worthy of it.

Yet our collection of pain is not unlike that old Chinese parable of the bear in the cornfields- overwhelmed by what he saw, he snatched the nearest ear within reach and hastily held it under his left elbow. Then, reaching out with his left, he early grabbed the next ear and put it under his right. Presumably, at the end of his foraging trail, to his great surprise/demise, he realized that he was only carrying one ear. The rest lay behind him, desposed by the same urgency that prompted their arrival.

So that in the midst of my pain I reached out and snagged at every and any sympathetic ear in sight- be careful that you cherish the words and attention that others gave to you, Max.

Cherish it, because sympathy in the way of suffering is no easy task. To sit and listen, and empty oneself of all personal, immediate worries to take on that of another- that is perhaps one of the greatest challenges that man faces today. This age of disconnected, narcissistic solipsism, this great (melodramatic) despair- can be easily solved if we all were suddenly imbued with the extra burst of energy that allows for sympathy. The pathology of man, I think, is not so much that he despairs in the face of mortality and suffering out of their ultimate existential futility, but that it is too much easier simply to despair rather than to love or care. What is at stake is not eschatological questions, but capacity for prosaic kindness. Let every man find it within himself (and I believe that everyone can) to take a step on that rockier, more difficult road of empathy- to moderate one’s personal regard, to walk outside of the easy selfish bubble- and the world will be easily a better place.

This is no new line of thought. DFW in his commencement speech gave this very same message; that the real world demands a continuous struggle to be nice, genuine and prosaically kind.

In a sense, the disorientation at college is a gift, a boon from society. The real world is much much worse. Instead of the easy questions of “what are you concentrating in,” in which the illusions of ambition are still within easy mustering, life on the streets has no soft promise of fulfilling dreams. Instead, it is a grind of the monotonous against creativity, against initiative, the overpressing soporific lure to sleep and forget and just age. In the face of habit and pattern and rhythm, it is much easier to navigate life as a sleepwalker, whose colorless dreams are occasionally tinged with the red of alarm, but who grumbles and turns and continues to sleep. Until one day, you find yourself to be thirty, to be old, to be situated in time- and you make the mistake of looking up to see the future of the path you’ve been trudging on. The sight ends against the grey concrete wall of a R.I.P.

The horror. The utter horror.

College gives us the sight of that, buffered, as it is by 4 years, in which we can dream as big as we want and pretend that with each homework assignment, each problem set and essay and party and revelry, we are “preparing” ourselves. I am afraid not. I am afraid that the majority of the shit that we do at college is utterly useless. And we are too afraid to see this through. The tunnel vision that so often plagues me, when the week is filled with assignments and I live one day at a time, from one work to another- it is a sort of death. It is a sort of escape. Because we cannot lose our sight on the horizon. We must remember to look up from time to time, de- or inspite of the work that piles up before our eyes. We must still remember to plan ahead.

Otherwise, college will become the old cliche, that “happiest time of your life,” the last throes of adolescence and its carefree world. That is not the case- true life should not lose out against the nostalgic glow of myopic judgements and lack of care. The Chinese saying: 穷人的孩子早成家- that the kid in poverty grows up the fastest, reminds us of the theurapeutic value of working as well as thinking.

I think the existential crisis that so often plagued the scholars and philosophers does not exist on the same degree of significance for the man of the working class. Now, defenders of thought and class theory may say that it is because the working man is too oppressed by his immediate surroundings that he has neither time or capacity to think about these things, but I would suggest the opposite. It is because his erudite awareness of the inseparability of ideas to actions, that the only important thing is how to turn ideas into reality, that the working man does not suffer Nietzsche’s ressentiment. Nietzsche suffers from that, but the working man does not. The working man knows, how to create, build, live.

Returning back to the trunk of these thoughts from the topmost tangential branches- the importance of memory. I have already begun to forget a little (nay, a lot!) of the feelings of abandonment and loss that followed in the first few weeks. I have hardly even noticed the slip of emails, and the now sudden freedom to choose not to write them. Very very soon, that habit of sitting down and composing something, organizing chaos into coherent thoughts, will be lost. I must take care to preserve its memory.

The passage of time is a great healer. But is it really healing, or is it merely an analgesic. Suffering, and the fresh taste of suffering, is quite valuable, i think. It is only when we lose their memory that we fail them. Remember, Max, 11/14.

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What this blog is going to be about

So I just broke up with my girlfriend, and prior to this, we had a system of emailing each other once a day, to talk about our day, the interesting people and shit we encountered, and the things that were floating around the top of our minds. Except for the past while, it slipped from the intellectual to the personal, and then to the specific problems of dealing with Long Distance problems and shit. So that was no fun to read or write.

Reading Stendahl and the Seducers, an essay from the Point magazine I borrowed from Jon, gave me a new perspective, or rather just the motivation, primal push force to move on and get started with living a life that I wanted to live. The author talks about love, and how it is necessarily missing from the current societal culture of commercialized, capitalized everything. And while expressing admiration at the success that PUA’s manage to land, he also tries to critique the PUA community for neglecting the “love” part of a relationship. Stendahl apparently wrote this long reflective book, filled with advice and anecdotes and stories called On Love. (Funny thing- how suffering can open new doors for you to identify with. Suddenly a lot of trashy pop songs and books and essays and poems and quotes make sense, in the emotional aftermath of navigating that difficult path through doubt, agony and finally acceptance of rejection. But ironically, its not that bad, now- not after having written that email that finally shaped this debacle with a negation. The satisfaction of giving form to things is very real indeed.

So, as a consequence of this decided break, I’ve lost a channel to express some of the thoughts and ideas and happenings and reflections. This blog will be my alternative release. I’ve tried to start a blog several times, and each time failed to maintain it…because of a problem of conceptualizing the reader. Who exactly is going to read this, and how can I cater to their tastes? The old problem of writing to be liked.

Well, this blog is strictly for the personal, but if you can and do identify with what I am saying, power to you! I have not met too many people whom i found intensely interesting and engaging, maybe one or two out of each place I’ve been. Maybe on the internets it would be easier to find people. In the meantime, I write this as an open letter to those who feel the way I do- because i do believe that there exists some out there in the ethersphere.

Welcome. My name is Max

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stories

Prologue

The following book will talk about: love, life, relationships, children, suffering of said children, atonement, peace, a vacation, a return from a vacation and some science. Not necessarily in that order. Not necessarily at all, explicit, implicit, or with reasonable coherent meaning. The pressure to write is a wild old horse, and distillation of thoughts would perhaps grow possible during the day.

So, the introduction to the story. The protaganist of the story is a guy, who does not really belong much anywhere. Easy to fake belonging, of course, easy to pick up a dialect or slang, to mix dangerous vernacular with dangerous High English. Dangerous, to not to appear to be who you are, because there are things out there who don’t really like to see- with their sole grimy eye- directions being flaunted.

———————-

Johny wakes up, 9:30 am. The dawn of a day, not necessarily new. Sunlight struggles against the window grime, and barely manages to fit a finger through. The Light’s getting fat, Johny thought. Needs to lose some weight. Darkness, sly and thin as always, smirks from the closet corner.

Johny rolls, stretches, flings off his bed sheets with an unceremonial show. His actions as he dresses are tight, tense, a little angry, a little reckless. Johny is twenty one, and today is his birthday.

How to spend the first day of your death? Decide. Between staying at home, living in Schrodinger’s damn box, more dead than alive, eating the last box of cereal, the last piece of lettuce and ham (the cheese had been out for a week) …..or to walk out into the glaring light of day, and have to deal with the shit that he stayed inside to get away from. Decisions, decisions. The soul has unpredictable wit (otherwise, how dull life would be! but it likes to change things up, sometimes to the surprise of its owner, sometimes not)- and today Johny’s Soul was feeling rather feline-like: it wanted a good long stretch in the grass outside, and scratch something with its claws. Images of scarlet drops on verdant lawn appeared in Johny’s mind. He frowned.

How people eat their food is often indicative of their current inner state. Johny ground his lettuce and ham sandwhich to a pulp, taking special care to drag the top molar against the bottom as long as it would last.

And there would be groaning and gnashing of teeth in the darkness..

John, Johny long-john. Today is your day, and how nervously anxious you are already to meet it! A lot can happen in 24 hours, my, don’t bounce off your toes already. Keep some of that energy alive, because the sad truth of the human life
is that not everything goes on forever. Not even on your birthday

John walked back to his cramped room to put on some pants. For some reason, he found himself carrying the butter knife back with him. His eyes take a special second to run down the length of its blade, dip into the nick halfway from the top (from the last time he flung it at the window) and climb back up. He enjoys the almost tangible feel of sharpness, and slowly runs his finger down the side. There was an edge to the air, as Johny wrapped the knife in paper napkins and decided to slip it for some odd reason into his back pocket.

The front door opened with a groan of protest. It’s been days since anyone has disturbed it from its rest, where it finally fell asleep against the misshapen frame, swollen from years of neglect and rainwater. Johny kicked the door open. In the morning light, he saw particles of dust dancing in the air, almost twisting into a shape..a hand? a fist! —

but a spider shimmied down on a string of web, and clutched greedily at the mess. Johny shuddered, and quickly looked around for a wad of paper. Ever since last November, when he woke up feeling something itchy dancing across his eyelid, he has been unable to stand the sight of eight legs. “Unnatural abomination,” he thought as he shuddered once again, and reached back to introduce his unfortunately legged friend  to the European couch series from Ikea’s Weekly Deal.

There were no survivors.

——————-

The spider was not just every spider. It had seen its share of history over the past few years that it spent at Residence 52’s top door frame, behind a crease whose plaster had peeled off to leave a comfortable abode. Here, in the corner, it stored its dishes; (the silverware laid safe behind the lint in the back); to be taken out only on fortuitous days [today was not one of them], when it managed to land a special delicacy. A Spanish fourlegged, perhaps, maybe God-forbid, a radish horse-fly! That would be feast enough for a week and a half. Its fanciful imagination can be excused on the grounds of starvation; for a whole week, the catch had been insubstantial. It has been forced to revisit leftovers in the fridge-web, and now even those were gone. Who could blame it when the frustrating insoluble mass imprisoning it on the wrong side of food suddenly opened again. Timmy leapt down with all of the excitement of a convict’s new found freedom…and
left his intestines decorating a new shade on the mahogany armchair.

What’s that? The death of one small spider is insignificant? In most scenarios, perhaps, but as the dust swirled around this new glossy intruder, Timmy the spider had his last revenge.

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